UNCW’s Veterans Hall officially opens with celebration for all veterans

UNCW Veterans Hall grand opening and dedication, honoring six World War II veterans.
UNCW Veterans Hall grand opening and dedication, honoring six World War II veterans.(WECT)
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 10:43 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The grand opening and dedication of Veterans Hall on UNC Wilmington’s campus Thursday opened with a flyover by the Bandit Flight Team to honor veterans from near and far.

“I remember saying, ‘what if?’, then the what if question turned into a vision and that vision became a plan and now we have the reality and the possibility that resulted in the state-of-the-art facility and the office that encompasses military affairs,” Walter Gaskins, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military Affairs, said.

UNCW has more than two thousand veteran and military-affiliated students, making up about 12% of their student population. The Office of Military Affairs, inside Veterans Hall, provides a number of resources to student veterans and those military-affiliated.

“Most of us have come from varying locations. We’ve somehow found our roots here and now we have a singular location on campus to kind of come together to rejoin with those who have gone through the same things we have and are in the same boat trying to find that education again,” LeAnne Churchill, president of the student veterans organization, said. “We have six World War Two veterans who have come today to celebrate the fact that this is our building. Everything that they have sacrificed.”

Known as the Greatest Generation, World War II Veterans, some with ties to UNCW, were specially recognized during the ceremony.

“It is not just the physical structure, but the people and the memories that make it an exceptional place to be. In other words, we saw what has happened and why we call them the Greatest Generation and cause of their wisdom, because of their tenacity, because of their will to say that those things that we believe in, so that we can pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Gaskin said.

“In shining example, of an educational institution that not only assists its veterans, but honors veterans. Now we have veterans, the Greatest Generation that has served in World War Two, who defended our freedom today from tyranny that our veterans continue to answer the call and Korea and the Vietnam War, Beirut, in many, many other operations short of war,” Brigadier General Andrew M. Niebel, Commanding General, Marine Corps Installations East, said. “And today, our world is changing. How we compete globally is being challenged in all our domains. It’s not just air, land and sea now, it’s far, far beyond that. And therefore, we have to change. We have to change to meet that challenge and keep our competitive edge. My generation’s war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan was much different than the kind of war that was fought in the 1940s. But one thing has not changed and will not change. And that’s the nature of war. The nature of wars both violent and requires tremendous sacrifice. Well, we have veterans in the audience today with whom we’re so proud to be associated.”

UNCW’s Director of Military Affairs, Bill Kawczynski, said this is in their DNA to have this type of building and resources, as the school opened in the 1940′s as a GI bill school to serve veterans and their families.

According to a press release, Veterans Hall is the only building in the nation on a university or college campus to honor all veterans, instead of being named by someone with ties to the campus.