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Gulf War veteran Monique Best, ECU accounting technician for the Foundation Financial Service, was honored for her service with induction into the Distinguished Military Service Society in 2011. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Society recognizes military service in ECU community

July 3, 2012

By Melanie Jock
ECU News Services

America’s traditional Fourth of July festivities merge flags and fireworks, stars and stripes, picnics and parades. It’s arguably the brightest and the noisiest of all the holidays celebrated in the United States.

At East Carolina University, remembering freedom is quieter. It’s focused less on dazzle and more on simple, enduring recognition of the men and women who have sacrificed to preserve the country’s freedom.

A core component of that recognition is the university’s Distinguished Military Service Society, established in 2008 to honor all service members within the ECU community. This year nine people will be inducted into the society, bringing the total of honorees to 30.

“ECU has a longstanding tradition of honoring the military,” said Steve Duncan, assistant vice chancellor for military programs. He said the society was meant to honor all members of the ECU community – both graduates and university supporters – as well as military members who did not see active duty.

The society’s purpose is “to honor those who have given us the freedom to pursue our dreams,” Duncan said, as well as those who have “supported the educational institution that allowed us to achieve our dreams.”

Duncan is one of this year’s honorees, as is U.S. Army veteran James Bearden, director of the BB&T Center for Leadership Development at ECU. More inductees will be named closer to the Oct. 26 induction ceremony.

“I’m delighted and somewhat awed to be recognized,” said Bearden.  “I’m certainly honored and humbled.”

Bearden said he is absolutely thrilled with ECU’s support of the military, which is so much a part of life in eastern North Carolina. “There are so many ties to military here,” he said.  “You can’t get away from the fact that military and armed forces are where leadership resides, and we try to emulate that at ECU.”

Monique Best, Gulf War veteran and accounting technician for the Foundation Financial Service at ECU, was an inductee in 2011.

“It’s a real honor to be recognized by ECU,” Best said. “It really meant a lot not only to me but also to my family, since I come from military family background.”  

Best said she appreciates how the university acknowledges its veterans and the exposure to fellow veterans she did not know were on campus. “In coming years, I’m looking forward to participating in campus events for the military,” she said.

Duncan said the society grew from an idea advanced by Lt. Col. Steve Delaux, former Army ROTC leader at ECU. “Delaux felt it would be fitting for the university to honor those who had supported our nation and also supported this institution,” Duncan said.

The first inductees included former Pirate football coach John Christenbury, and football players Admiral Bill Greene and Colonel Vigil Clark.  

The university’s traditional support of the military was acknowledged in 2010, when ECU received the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award from the U.S. Department of Defense. The award recognized ECU as one of the country’s most supportive employers for the military.

ECU was one of only two higher education institutions on a list of 160 recognized institutions. The university was also recognized that year by GI Jobs magazine, named a “Military-Friendly School.”

The fall induction ceremony for new members of ECU’s Distinguished Military Service Society will feature D-Day survivor Dr. Hal Baumgarten. Baumgarten consulted with Steven Spielberg on “Saving Private Ryan,” and “The Longest Day.” The event will be held in conjunction with Military Appreciation Day, a 10-year tradition that recognizes military members for their service during a home football game.

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