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University Honoring Military through Warrior Week

The University of Mississippi is honoring students and alumni who served in the armed forces with a series of events called Warrior Week, which culminates Nov. 3 when the Ole Miss Rebels host the South Carolina Gamecocks at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. ROTC cadets and military veterans will be honored on the field throughout the game. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services
The University of Mississippi is honoring its military veteran students, faculty and alumni during Warrior Week (Oct. 29-Nov. 3) with a series of events designed to recognize members of the armed services in the Ole Miss family.

“The University of Mississippi’s support for veterans and military families reflects our commitment to helping these important members of the Ole Miss family navigate their transition into civilian life, and it is a vital part of our institutional investment in building healthy and vibrant communities,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“We value our military students greatly for their service to our country, and for the leadership, life experience and maturity they bring to our campus community. As we continue making great strides in how we support our 1,400-plus military-connected students, Warrior Week is a wonderful way for the university to honor their tremendous sacrifice and service.” 

The university’s mission to honor and support its student veterans does not go unnoticed by its military faculty and staff.

“Warrior Week affords the LOU community a chance to see our past, present and future veterans’ accomplishments, and to see these veterans in person that are being recognized,” Army ROTC Sgt. Anthony Douglas said. “Warrior Week reminds the university that it has its own veterans, and that the university should be proud to be affiliated with these veterans that have honorably served our country. 

“Warrior Week also allows our veterans to feel welcomed, and to have their service and sacrifice recognized by their community.”

Throughout the week, a variety of events and activities will honor veterans and their service, culminating in the Nov. 3 Military Appreciation Game against South Carolina.

Ole Miss Wish

On Friday and Saturday (Nov. 2-3), 13-year-old Benjamin Clark, who was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2015, will be presented his Ole Miss Wish. His weekend will include a variety of activities catered to his interests.

Clark will be the first Ole Miss Wish child to serve as Kid President for the day and will make a proclamation from the president’s desk.

He will be joined by his parents, Teri and Caleb Clark, and siblings Carolyn Grace, 12, and Joshua, 11, all of Yazoo City. Together, the family will experience the sights and sounds of an Ole Miss game day, while also participating in the Walk of Champions through the Grove, among other events.

“Benjamin is super-excited. He just loves Ole Miss,” Teri Clark said. “He keeps telling me not to tell him anything about it. He keeps saying, ‘I want to be surprised.’ It’s going to be a special thing.”

Caleb Clark is chaplain for the Mississippi Air National Guard’s 172nd Airlift Wing, a position he has held for nearly a decade.

Caleb Clark said he looks forward to enjoying the weekend festivities in Oxford with his family, but he is also glad to know that all the Ole Miss service members will be recognized.

“I think it’s vitally important to emphasize that military and education aren’t distinct from one another,” said Caleb Clark, whose grandfather, Roy E. Clark, is a resident of the State Veterans Home and an Ole Miss alumnus. “I always like to see a strong connection between education, academia, training and the military.”

Ole Miss Wish is a philanthropic effort by the Student Veterans Association that works with military families to provide children with meaningful experiences at the university in partnership with theDivision of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Veterans Gala

On Friday night (Nov. 2), UM will host the inaugural Veterans Alumni Gala, a program designed to recognize and honor alumni and students who served in the armed forces or will serve in the future. Besides being recognized by their peers, state and federal dignitaries and their community, veterans and cadets can use this opportunity to network and create lasting bonds that will help in their careers.

The guest of honor for the event, to be held at The Inn at Ole Miss, will be 9/11 survivor Will Jimeno. Jimeno will speak about his experiences responding to the World Trade Center with his Port Authority comrades and being trapped for 13 hours under the rubble of the towers.

“I’m looking forward to coming (to Oxford),” Jimeno said. “I hear nothing but great things about it. I’m looking forward to meeting the people and seeing the Grove and going to the football game. Events like this are a great honor.”

Bringing Jimeno in to tell his inspirational story will be a treat for student veterans and alumni, said Andrew Newby, UM assistant director for veteran and military services. Newby also hopes the event springboards current military students forward into their postgraduate careers.

“The Veterans Alumni Gala is a new effort I’m bringing to Ole Miss as an opportunity to connect student veterans with our wonderful alumni,” Newby said. “The goal is to create lasting partnerships between our alums and the student veterans that can lead to a great future for our university.”

Turkey Bowl

The week’s events kick off Monday (Oct. 29) with some friendly competition, as ROTC flag football teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will battle for bragging rights on the indoor field at the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center. The action begins at 8 p.m. and is open to the public.

“These games are important to the camaraderie and esprit de corps of the ROTC department because the ROTC students do not have a lot of interaction other than seeing each other conduct PT in the mornings,” Douglas said. “These games allow us to size each other up and remind each other that we are equals and are brothers in arms.”

The flag football games are a good opportunity to compete against ROTC counterparts, said Army ROTC cadet Joe Kelly, who played in the games last year and will participate again this year.

“I loved it (last year),” said Kelly, a senior majoring in management and human resources. “It’s really fun to just go against all the other military service branches.”

Football Uniform Reveal

On Friday (Nov. 2), the Ole Miss football team will unveil its patriotic-themed uniforms the players will wear during Saturday’s SEC game against South Carolina. The Rebels have made it a tradition to play one game a season in uniforms that honor service members.

Kelly, who hails from Washington, D.C., said he was impressed with last year’s military appreciation uniforms, with the Ole Miss helmet logo colored in an American flag design.

The athletics department will unveil the uniforms Friday on its social media outlets.

Ole Miss-South Carolina Football Game

The military appreciation football game between the Rebels and the South Carolina Gamecocks will kick off at 11 a.m. Nov. 3 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Notable alumni and service members will be recognized during the game, and special guest Robert Wilkie Jr., U.S. secretary of veterans affairs, will participate in the pregame coin toss alongside Jimeno.

Cadets from each branch of the ROTC will march onto the field at halftime, an experience Kelly said is awe-inspiring, especially as someone who tried to join the football team when he came to Ole Miss.

“I tried walking onto the football team, but honestly, I wasn’t good enough,” Kelly said. “But it’s a dream come true to be out on the field and look up and see all the fans in the stands.”

Throughout Warrior Week, student veterans and ROTC cadets will be featured in videos highlighting their service and achievements.

Kelly said the recognition the university shows its veterans and active military service members makes him proud to serve, and motivates his future endeavors. He is on track to graduate in May and head into active service.

“(The recognition during Warrior Week) is very nice and very humbling,” Kelly said. “It makes you feel grateful to know there are all these people serving our country, and it’s humbling just to give back.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to give back to my community and my country and gain some life-changing experiences.”

Before kickoff, a military flyover will soar over the stadium.

Volunteer Efforts

Throughout the week, ROTC cadets will provide volunteer services to community organizations, including the State Veterans Home, Oxford churches and businesses.

“Military service in general is about volunteering and self-sacrifice,” Douglas said. “The general population forgets that our service is voluntary, and service members forget this as well at times, so volunteerism activities such as this event allow us to remember our roots and gives us the chance to remind the general population that we want to serve outside of our uniform.

“Hopefully, the cadets will learn more about their own humanity and how to be more humble.”

Navy EOD Demonstration

The U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal/Diver team and the Army Adventure Semi will be open to the public beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the northwest corner of the Jackson Avenue Center parking lot.

The Army Adventure Semi allows guests to try out a variety of simulators that show the skills of U.S. Army soldiers.

An EOD dive tank will allow guests to interact with Navy EOD divers and their equipment. Also, the EOD team will have a robot and dive suit display set up at the Navy ROTC tent, next to the Zebra tent in the Grove.

By Justin Whitmore

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