UTM hosts 24th Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony

The University of Tennessee at Martin hosted its 24th Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony on May 24 in Phillip W. Watkins Auditorium in the Dr. Edward J. and Carolyn P. Boling University Center.

The ceremony was held indoors – a rare occasion – because of inclement weather. The ceremony is typically held in the open area between the Boling University Center and the Paul Meek Library.

The guest speaker was retired Lt. Col. Michael Peeler, who became the first chief of police at Dyersburg State Community College. He also serves area Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, which consist of nine campuses across northwest Tennessee.

Peeler is a December 1995 graduate of UT Martin with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education and health.

Peeler quoted the song “Some Gave All” by Billy Ray Cyrus and spoke on the theme that all service members gave some and some gave all.

“You see, all that are currently serving and military veterans still with us gave some,” Peeler said. “We missed celebrating holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, births, those first words or first steps answering our nation’s call.

“Today, we celebrate or honor our fellow service members who lost their lives, their fight, against things such as battle. Some even lost their lives or are still battling when they came home from battle. We have to think of those we lost not only in battle but battling with those mental illnesses such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or depression.

“Those of us who have served – we understand that today is a great day,” he said. “We get to honor our brothers and sisters who made the ultimate sacrifice. As I promised several of my colleagues and veterans here, …as I close, I stand before you proudly, having served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan simply because some gave all.”

Chancellor Yancy Freeman gave opening remarks at the ceremony.

“What greater sacrifice can one give than offering their life in exchange of protecting our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness?” Freeman said. “I am indebted to our fallen soldiers and their families for offering so much for our freedom.

“The United States of America has the greatest military in the world, and I’m proud that the University of Tennessee at Martin is not just military-friendly, but we are fully supportive of our military men and women and their families.”

Lt. Col. Bernard House, professor of military science, served as the master of ceremonies and introduced Peeler. A gun salute was rendered by members of the UT Martin Department of Public Safety and City of Martin Police Department, and taps was played by James McGregor.

The colors were presented by members of the UT Martin Army ROTC Battalion – Second Lt. Broderick Sakarapanee of Mount Juliet, Master Sgt. Jason Stacy, Second Lt. Devitra Farmer of Cordova and Freed-Hardeman University ROTC Cadet Cody Goodwin – while the national anthem was sung by Dr. Roberto Mancusi, professor of music, and the invocation and benediction were given by retired Chaplain Debra McGuire.

Farmer and Sakarapanee were newly commissioned into active duty in the U.S. Army upon graduation earlier this month.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday held on the last Monday of May. Begun on May 30, 1868, and called Decoration Day, the holiday was standardized by Congress in 1971 as Memorial Day. It is a day to honor and remember those who lost their lives in defense of the United States.

PHOTO: Guest speaker Michael Peeler speaks at the annual UT Martin Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony held May 24 in Watkins Auditorium in the Boling University Center. Peeler is a UTM alumnus, a retired lieutenant colonel and the first chief of police for Dyersburg State Community College and area Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology.

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