Southeast Missouri State University’s new Veterans Plaza was officially dedicated today, Sept. 25 during a flag-raising ceremony to celebrate the new addition on campus to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The University’s Veterans Plaza, located between Academic Hall and Memorial Hall, honors the military service of Southeast veterans or families of veterans.
The Plaza consists of a central stone and plaque honoring past, present and future military members, and commemorative engraved bricks honoring the military service of Southeast alumni, friends, family members and others. The U.S. flag, POW/MIA flag, the Missouri state flag and flags representing the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Space Force are displayed.
“Throughout its history, Southeast has exalted and acknowledged the importance of the veterans and active duty military personnel in our student body, our alumni, our staff and our faculty,” said Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast. “Since the time the University was established in 1873, we have had veterans from every major conflict the United States has engaged in, beginning with the Civil War and continuing through today. The University’s Veterans Plaza is an opportunity for Southeast and our community to honor the military service of our friends and family members.”
Vargas noted Southeast’s support of the military has also extended to programs to prepare students to enter the military, including the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program, which provides a path for young men and women at Southeast to become commissioned officers in the United States Air Force, and the Show-Me Guard Officer Leadership Development Program, or Show-Me GOLD, which provides opportunities for students to earn a degree while serving as future officers in the Missouri National Guard.
Vargas also noted Southeast’s commitment to assist returning veterans and their families, including the Office of Military and Veterans Services, opened in 2012 to provide resources, information and support to Veterans, military personnel, and their dependents, during their experience with Southeast. The University has also been consistently recognized by organizations such as Military Friendly for its efforts to serve and support its military-affiliated students and alumni.
“This year, we are proud to have 1,064 veterans, current service members, their spouses and dependents enrolled at Southeast,” Vargas said. “By our actions, this University has strongly supported the military but, until the creation of this Veterans Plaza, there has been no physical presence on our campus honoring the services of our students, alumni, staff, faculty and friends who have served in the military. It is my honor, on behalf of faculty, staff, and most importantly on behalf of our students, to dedicate this beautiful addition to the Southeast campus and to all it represents.”
Vargas also recognized Thomas M. Meyer, 1975 Southeast graduate and veteran of the U.S. Navy Seabees, for his integral role in recommending the addition of a space on campus to honor all veterans and his dedication and work with the Southeast Missouri State Foundation to make the Veterans Plaza a reality.
More than $100,000 has been privately raised to support the Veterans Plaza project, which currently includes 217 bricks commemorating the military service of alumni, friends, family members and others. Commemorative bricks will be added each fall to continue this new Southeast tradition in honor of veterans.
Meyer, who recommended the addition of a space on campus to honor all veterans while serving on the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents from 2011-2018, said the Plaza is a more than a memorial.
“This is a place for remembering our veteran’s sacrifices, and for veterans to reflect on their time served,” Meyer said. “The Veterans Plaza is a reminder to all students and alumni that this is a veteran friendly campus, one to be proud of.”
Veterans have had an important role in the growth of University, and the Plaza recognizes the past, present and future veterans at Southeast, Meyer said.
“The plaque dedicated here says it all — to recognize the past, Southeast’s finest, with leaders coming out of service to their country, to make a difference in their lives, in their family, in their community. To recognize the present, for those now in service to their country to feel welcomed on campus, and that they will not be forgotten. And to the future, unfortunately there will always be a conflict that we would have a call to day, and answered by many, both men and women, to protect and defend our country,” Meyer said. “We thank them all for their sacrifice. ‘Welcome home veterans’ is a familiar greeting that all veterans deserve to hear, and this dedication of the Veterans Plaza will echo this sentiment hereafter.”
To purchase a brick or donate to the Veterans Plaza project, visit semo.edu/veteransplaza or contact the University’s Alumni Association Office at (573) 651-2259.