We are your veterans -- yes, your veterans who hail from every "walk of life" regardless of race, creed, financial or social background. We and our families are truly service-oriented people who place the needs of others ahead of any personal gain.
We chose to serve because we believe that God blessed America; service to our nation is duty, honor and country; and each of us in our own way trust a spiritual calling to serve you. In fact, on behalf of our veterans and their families, we choose to believe that we are your nation's most trusted credentials.
We served so that you and future generations can prosper in pursuit of dreams only achievable in a land such as ours. I know this to be true because I have lived and fought in distant lands where life is empty in terms of hope and marked by constant life-threatening struggle. In this regard and on behalf of our South Mississippi military veterans and their families, I thank God that our life travels presented the opportunity for each of us to serve you, and our great nation.
Today we honor our veterans via a national holiday that has as its roots the World War armistice between Germany and the Allied Nations that came into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Even at this moment as we enjoy the fruits of democracy and freedom, young men and women destined one day to wear the title of "military veteran" voluntarily serve with integrity and moral courage to support, and defend our Constitution.
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Sadly, it is more likely than not that hearts will be broken this very day when a widow and family somewhere across the United States will be informed via a knock on the door that their soldier, Marine, sailor or airman lost their life in a foreign land fighting the battle to defeat terrorism.
As our young veterans return home from military service, many are eager to further their education and pursue a career. In this regard, USM was recently designated for the second year in a row as a "Military Friendly School" and "Top Military Friendly University," and is committed to providing veterans, service members and their families every opportunity to succeed.
Furthermore, we are active partners with the Marine Leadership Scholar Program and one of a few universities across the Nation designated a Purple Heart Institution. Currently, more than 1,200 student-veterans and their family members are enrolled at Southern Miss and we are making every effort to encourage other veterans to select our university as their home.
At the direction of USM President Rodney D. Bennett, we created an on-campus all-inclusive support program established as the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families to assist our "military students" in pursuit of their academic and professional career aspirations. Our program is rapidly expanding to meet the needs of our military students and we are eager to do more to enhance their respective futures.
Those wishing to provide financial support for the center can make a tax-deductible gift to the USM Foundation online by visiting www.usmfoundation.com/veterans or mailing to the center at USM Box 5171, Hattiesburg, MS 39401.
For questions about the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families, call 601-264-4629 or visit www.usm.edu/military-veterans. If you have the time, please feel welcome to visit our center located on the USM Hattiesburg campus at 3503 Morningside Drive.
Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, U.S. Army retired, is director of Military and Veterans Student Affairs at the University of Southern Mississippi.