Calling all veterans

NMU to celebrate Veterans Day with free admission to events

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University is using Veterans Day as an opportunity to honor veterans for their service and sacrifice.

Festivities will begin with a kick-off ceremony prior to the 1 p.m. football game between the NMU Wildcats and the Northwood Timberwolves.

Weather-permitting, the ceremony will be held at noon near the flagpole outside the Superior Dome’s main entrance prior to the football game, or inside if the weather conditions are too severe.

The ceremony will feature the presentation of colors by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Color Guard, the NMU marching band and recognition of NMU veteran students’ accomplishments.

Michael Rutledge, NMU coordinator of Student Veterans Services, said several distinguished veterans who currently attend NMU, or have attended or graduated from NMU in the past will receive specific recognition, but the day is intended to honor all veterans.

“Everyone from the president on down understands the importance of recognizing and honoring veterans,” Rutledge said.

Distinguished guests will include Congressman Jack Bergman and state Senator Tom Casperson, Rutledge said.

Navy veteran and NMU wildlife management major Connor Loftus will give a brief presentation at the ceremony.

Loftus is a Plainwell, Illinois, native who joined the Naval Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, in 2011. He earned the command Blue Jacket of the Year award in 2013, Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist pin and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. He attained the rank of aviation machinist mate second class E-5 before being honorably discharged from the Navy in July 2015.

NMU President Fritz Erickson will also present an honorary coin to U.S. Air Force veteran and NMU finance major Paul Flint in recognition of his volunteer service, Rutledge said.

Flint is the treasurer for Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22 of Marquette County, and a member of the Marquette County Veteran Alliance and NMU’s Student Veterans Association.

Flint, who served in the military as a meteorologist for the U.S. Air Force from 2007 to 2011, said he was surprised and humbled to be chosen for such an honor.

“It is exciting to see them recognizing veterans that are helping the community,” Flint said. “I do work with other veterans a lot, but it’s because I want to. I pale in comparison to some of the work done in this community … by veterans.”

Due to the remote location, many veterans find staying in Marquette County a challenge due to, among other things, the long distance they have to travel for Veterans Affairs health care, Flint said.

But, they find it easier to stay thanks to the help of other veterans and veterans organizations in Marquette County.

“A lot of those veterans, they want to be here, they want to stay here even though it is a sacrifice,” Flint said.

NMU is offering free admission to most athletic events on Saturday for each veteran and a guest, along with an opportunity to stand and be recognized at all competitions, Rutledge said.

Honoring the contributions that veterans have made and continue to make long after their military service concludes is important to the university, Rutledge said.

“The school is recognized by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency as a veteran-friendly school,” Rutledge said. “When I first got here, I could tell they wanted to help veterans. That was very important to them and to me as someone who works in veterans services.”

Flint said one of the best parts of the NMU Veterans Day celebration is the fact that it will bring veterans together.

“That’s very important in this area,” Flint said. “People can take the time to see and talk to veterans who they might not ordinarily see.”

Rutledge said he would like to see all of the seats in the Superior Dome filled for the event.

“We want everyone to come out,” Rutledge said, “Go Cats.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.