UNF stands at attention ahead of ninth annual Veterans Day Tribute

Courtney Green, News Editor

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The proud flags of the U.S. military branches billowed in the breeze through UNF’s Veterans Plaza ahead of the ninth annual Veterans Day Tribute. 

As set-up for the event was underway, Spinnaker managed to grab an interview with guest speaker U.S. Navy Captain Dan Gillen to discuss this year’s theme and to find out what he wanted Ospreys — and the Jacksonville community — to think about going into the Veterans Day weekend.

The theme of this year’s tribute is “Honoring All Who Served.” Captain Gillen made it clear that honor is extended not just to service members, but to their families as well.

“Many times, the families serve just as much as the veterans do. They move around a lot, spouses have to change jobs, children change schools,” he said. “The sailors will go deploy and be away for Christmas, and that can be very difficult. They can miss baby’s first steps, besides being in some potentially dangerous areas in the world.”

Social media, he says, can make things harder for soldiers who see life events they’re missing out on.

When asked what he would like UNF students, faculty, and staff, as well as the greater Jacksonville community to think about going into the Veterans Day weekend, Gillen was up front with his pitch.

“We’re hiring. We’ll take America’s best and brightest,” he said frankly. 

He also had a thank-you to issue. 

“We would also like to thank Jacksonville for being such a welcoming city for veterans,” he said. “I appreciate that the University of North Florida is taking the time to do this.”

Spinnaker also snagged an interview with the Director of UNF’s Military and Veterans Resource Center, Bob Buehn.

“We think highly of our veterans and we want to honor them on this Veterans Day week, and so our event today is our tribute to anybody who served,” Buehn said. “These people make the sacrifice voluntarily.”

For those looking forward to the three day weekend and possibly an excuse to party, Buehn would like Ospreys to reflect for a moment sometime Monday.

“I want everybody to enjoy the three-day weekend. It would be nice if on Monday, you take a little time or maybe do a little something to remind you of the people who have served. Veterans day is not when we remember those who have fallen, but we remember all veterans.”

Buehn would like to thank the veterans in his life who inspired him to serve, among them his father and uncle, who served in World War II. Both of his sons also served after Buehn, passing along the family tradition of service and sacrifice.

Currently, UNF has over 1,000 veterans and active duty military students. The University has ranked among military friendly schools by Victory Media for a solid decade. Military Friendly designates UNF as exceeding standards in every category from academics to culture to military support and retention.

Check out Spinnaker TV’s livestream of the event.

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