November 02, 2006

SIUC sets Veterans Day events

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A distinguished aviator who served 25 years in the U.S. Air Force will speak at Veterans Day ceremonies, Friday, Nov. 10, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Col. George D. Hagans (Ret.) of Marion will give the keynote address during ceremonies starting at noon at the Old Main Flagpole. Admission is free.

For 24 hours following the ceremony, a combined operation of cadets from SIUC's Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) will conduct a time-honored tradition honoring those who have served. The cadets will stand a silent vigil at the Old Main Flagpole in remembrance of the nation's prisoners of war and those who remain missing in action. The guard will change every 15 minutes during the 24-hour period that ends Saturday, Nov. 11.

In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will move to the Fourth Floor Video Lounge in the Student Center, but the vigil will continue at the Old Main Flagpole rain or shine.

Hagans, 69, retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1983, and said he is honored to speak at the ceremony. Known as the "Old Aviator," Hagans will speak on the responsibilities that come with being a U.S. citizen, and acknowledging the military sacrifices made in protecting the nation — going back to the American Revolution.

Hagans graduated from the University of North Texas in 1958, and received a commission as a second lieutenant through the Air Force's ROTC program. He completed pilot training and flew B-47 aircraft in Little Rock, Ark., later transitioning into B-52 aircraft with multiple assigned locations. Hagans served in Vietnam in 1967-68 as a pilot advisor/instructor with the South Vietnamese Air Force flying AC-47 "Dragonships" and A-1 fighters.

He became a test pilot with McDonnell Aircraft Co. in Tulsa and in 1972 attended the U.S. Army Command Staff College, with follow-on assignment to the air staff at the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C. He served as presidential advance agent for former presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford.

Hagans earned a master's degree in management and supervision from Central Michigan University in 1975. In 1976, he attended the Air Force's War College in Montgomery, Ala. The Air Force promoted Hagans to colonel in 1978.

He joined Simmons Airlines as a vice president upon retiring from the military in 1983. The small regional airline grew to serve a five-state area before the parent company of American Airlines purchased it, eventually making it part of the American Eagle Airlines network. He founded Marplex Industries and served as its president and CEO.

Hagans and his wife, Nancy, live in Marion.

"We must never forget freedom is not free," he said. "Over the years our citizens may not remember that there are those who do not want free and open society and are opposing our way of life in determined and deadly ways to accomplish the demise of the United States.

"We must remember the veterans, our fallen men and women, and realize they go all the way back to the American Revolution," he said. "It is the military veteran who has given us our freedom, not the politician."

Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole will give the Veterans Day proclamation. SIUC's music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, will perform the national anthem and "America the Beautiful." Kenneth C. Carr, a publicity promotion specialist with the University's Student Health Program, will play taps. Air Force and Army cadets will perform a 21-gun salute and provide color guard for the event.

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.