November 02, 2005

Vigil, ceremony will mark Veterans' Day at SIUC

by Pete Rosenbery


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A distinguished aviator and alumnus is speaking at Veterans' Day ceremonies, Friday, Nov. 11, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

William R. Norwood of Carbondale will give the keynote address during ceremonies that begin at 11 a.m. at the Old Main Flagpole. Admission is free.

For the 24 hours prior to the ceremony, a combined operation of about 90 cadets from SIUC's Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) are participating in a time-honored tradition. The cadets will stand a silent vigil to remember the nation's prisoners of war and those who remain missing in action. A changing of the guard takes place every 15 minutes during the 24-hour period that starts at 11 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 10.

In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will move to Ballroom A in the Student Center, but the vigil will continue rain or shine.

Norwood is a member of the SIUC ROTC Hall of Fame and earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from SIUC in 1959. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1959 to 1965, where he earned the rank of captain and flew B-52's. A native of Centralia, Norwood had a 31-year career with United Airlines beginning in 1965 – becoming the company's first African-American pilot and the first to achieve the rank of captain. He is a founding member of the Organization of Black Airline Pilots and served on the SIU Board of Trustees from 1974 to 2001. In May, Norwood, SIUC's first black quarterback and inductee into the SIU Hall of Fame, received the Alumni Achievement Award at College of Science commencement ceremonies.

Norwood is honored to deliver the address, and said that it is important to make sure veterans are properly remembered.

"Veterans have done so much to keep us a free nation – sometimes I don't think we honor them enough or long enough for what they have done," he said.

Norwood also emphasizes the importance of the ROTC program, saying that it brings out "great leaders."

"Some of our highest ranking and most distinguished military officers have come through ROTC," he said. "It's vital to have it and retain it and not de-emphasize it."

Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole will give the Veterans' Day proclamation, and Melissa Jo Croy, a junior in administration of justice, will perform the National Anthem. Kenneth C. Carr, a publicity promotion specialist with the University's Student Health Program, will play taps. Army cadets will perform a 21-gun salute and provide color guard for the event.

Army ROTC Captain Brent Odom, an assistant professor of military science, said the vigil and ceremony are important.

"It's respect for our veterans, showing remembrance and appreciation by young women and young men who will soon be entering the service themselves," he said.

Developing citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.