Appreciation ceremony honors veterans, active duty

At eight years old, Aaron Vaughn knew why he was created—to defend the United States and its people. And that was what he did. Despite many physical setbacks, including two ACL injuries, he became a Navy SEAL. He eventually died at 30 years old while serving in Afghanistan in 2011.

But according to his mother, Karen Vaughn, he’d do it all over again if he could, even if the outcome was the same, because he was doing what he loved. 

“He wasn’t proud. He wasn’t arrogant. He was honored that he got to serve,” Vaughn said of her son.

Vaughn was the guest speaker at last Thursday’s Veterans Day ceremony at Bayou Pointe. She told the audience her son’s story and expressed her thankfulness to all military men and women, both veterans and active duty.  And she asked the audience to take the opportunity on Veterans Day to think about what they do to serve their country.

“I ask you to contemplate your freedom a little differently today,” Vaughn said.

All ULM students, faculty and staff who are veterans or active duty were honored at the ceremony with a personal thanks given by President Ronald Berry.

“I want to thank you for being part of something bigger than yourselves,” Berry said. “Thank you for being role models, for your sacrifices, for your loyalty, for your commitment and for answering that call of service.”

Adam Craig, a public administration graduate student and U.S. Army second lieutenant, said it’s important we celebrate Veterans Day because it reminds people freedom isn’t free.

“Through the sacrifices that military members take, everyone gets to enjoy these freedoms however they wish,” Craig said.

This Veterans Day was different from recent history because, as Nell Calloway pointed out, the U.S. is no longer involved in a war like it has been for the past 20 years in Afghanistan.

Calloway, the president and CEO of Chennault Aviation & Military Museum in Monroe, said that while at times America seems like a divided nation, Americans have far more that unites us than divides us. She said veterans represent unification and the good in our country.

“They have fought our wars, defended our shores and kept us free,” Calloway said. “May God bless America and keep us forever grateful for their service.”