Today is Veterans Day, a day on which we thank all our veterans and active-duty service members for protecting the freedoms we so deeply cherish.  At Illinois State University, that service is never taken for granted, and we extend our deepest appreciation. 

Illinois State traditionally holds an in-person Veterans Day ceremony, organized by the Office of Veterans and Military Services and the Department of Military Science. COVID-19 has altered the plan for this year. However, a global pandemic does not dampen our appreciation for the sacrifices made by generations of those who have served this nation.  

Illinois State’s service relationship has roots that reach back to its founding in 1857. Our first president, Charles Hovey, resigned from Illinois State Normal University at the end of the school year of 1861 to fight in the Civil War. Colonel Hovey raised the 33rd Illinois Regiment, also known as the Teacher’s Regiment, which was mainly comprised of teachers and former students.  

Illinois State University also gained a reputation during World War I for supporting its students that were serving in the military. University Librarian Ange Milner served as a member of the ISNU war service committee, maintaining a list of all former and current ISNU and University High School students that served in the war effort. 

During World War II, Illinois State participated in the Navy V-12 program. Nearly 300 navy personnel were on campus as students, and V-12 trainees earned academic credit toward their professional careers and were commissioned as ensigns upon completion of subsequent midshipman training. 

Since then, students, faculty, staff, and alumni have proudly served in the U.S. Armed Forces in every major conflict. Upon their return, they brought to the University the dedication, commitment, selfless service, pride and leadership that has made Illinois State the leading academic institution it is. 

Today, more than 80 faculty and staff members are veterans, and over 400 Illinois State students have military connections as veterans or as current guard and reserve personnel. They provide leadership within the University and demonstrate our core values on campus, in the community, and throughout the world. 

The Office of Veterans and Military Services is often the first point of contact for student-veterans and dependents. Staff members assist with Veterans Affairs education benefits and assistance with services on campus and in the local community. Offices across campus also provide student-veterans with a wide array of academic and student support services. The Veterans Study Center in Moulton Hall is available for use by student veterans, those currently serving on active duty, and students in the Military Science/ROTC program. It provides a welcoming space for students to gather and study and is a venue for programs designed to assist student veterans.  

Illinois State’s commitment is also represented by annually being named as a Military Friendly School by VIQTORY, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business. In addition, ISU is ranked among the country’s best universities for veterans by College Factual. 

On this Veterans Day, please join me in extending heartfelt thanks and appreciation to those who have served, and who are currently serving, in the Armed Forces.