The Western Illinois University Leatherneck community will be celebrating Military Appreciation Week next week from Nov. 11 to Nov. 16.
Before the Military Appreciation Week celebrations begin, the Macomb community will mourn the loss of the oldest known living survivor of Iwo Jima, John Moon, who died on Oct. 29 at the nursing care facility, Wesley Village. Visitation will be held today at 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Dodsworth-Piper-Wallen Funeral Home. The memorial services for the veteran will be held on Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Wesley United Methodist Church.
Academic advisor and Director of the Veterans Resource Center, Ronald Pettigrew, will fly the flag of the United States Marine Corps outside of the Resource Center at half mast during Moon’s funeral service. The Resource Center flies four flags on its front lawn including the American Flag, POW/MIA Flag, Illinois Flag and the flag of the Western Illinois University.
Even with the loss of an important member of the Macomb community, Pettigrew is excited for the upcoming week and even handed out hot chocolate to students and faculty alike on Monday to raise awareness for the upcoming festivities.
The theme for the week this year is “Honoring Leathernecks: Past, Present and Future,” and the celebration will begin on Nov. 11 with the Military Tribute Ceremony at the Sherman flag pole at 11 a.m. where participants will honor veterans and service members. Pettigrew said this is an event that he looks forward to the most due to its longstanding history. It traces back all the way to World War I when it ended at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. Since then, a two minute silence has been held across the nation as a rememberance of those who have served the country.
Following the Military Tribute Ceremony is a Family Salute, which will take place in Sherman Hall at noon. This event is focused on the families of those who have served in the Armed Forces.
“We are trying to be intentional in recognizing families that allow them to serve.” Pettigrew said.
The second day of Military Appreciation week starts off at 3:30 p.m. at the Rock Hanson Statue near Hanson Field. The Colonel Ray “Rock” Hanson was unveiled two years ago on Sept. 19, 2017 in memoriam of the man who inspired many on the Western Illinois campus. Dave and Jackie Thompson, both Western Illinois graduates and former Homecoming Grand Marshals, will be making comments at the event.
From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., an All-Star Tug of War will be held in the Spencer Student Recreation Center where student organizations can register for the inaugural event.
To close out the second day, a discussion on “Why Appreciate the Military?” will be held in the University Union.
On Wednesday, two more events will be held, including “In their own words: Korea and Vietnam,” which will be a discussion where veterans who served in the military at the time of those wars will speak of their memories and experiences in the Lamoine Room from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the “Battle of the Branches Press Competition” in the Recreation Center.
Thursday’s festivities will kick off at 3:30 p.m. with a similar discussion from the day before where veterans from the Middle East and Afghanistan will speak of their experiences. Following the discussion, Military Trivia will be held at the Macomb VFW on 1200 E. Jefferson St. where teams of eight will compete in five rounds of 10 questions. Registration for the event is still open until Friday with a $40 entrance fee.
The Veteran’s Resource Center will host an Open House on Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in a celebration of the 10th Anniversary of its opening. The Veterans Resource Center was donated to Western Illinois University in 2007 by Ken and Betty Wright. The Wright Residence made the transition into the Veteran’s Resource Center in 2009. Inside the Resource Center hangs a photo and a plaque of Byron Wright who originally bought the home in 1946 after leaving the Navy.
To close out the week, Hanson Field will host a Military Appreciation Football game. The Western Illinois football team is hosting Southern Illinois University after a big win against the University of South Dakota. All service people with a military ID will receive free admission for themselves and a guest and a special halftime recognition will take place