It’s impossible to forget that the US is engaged in war. It’s reported on the nightly news and on all the web news sites. It’s a key topic in the presidential debates. It is, however, possible to become numb to the reports and forget the American men and women who daily engage the enemy on the battlefront or support those who do.
But for the staff, faculty and students of SNU, our indifferences to the cost of freedom have been challenged as we have come face-to-face with soldiers and their families this past week. For the past 5 days, the Sawyer Center has been the staging site for welcoming home more than 2,600 soldiers of the 45th Infantry of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, and reuniting them with their families.
As you might imagine, several returning soldiers are alumni of SNU, but this opportunity took on a more personal meaning when President Loren Gresham shared the following email from Shannon Johnson, wife of alumnus Jay Johnson, and mother of two daughters, ages 13 and 12 (Johnson family pictured above prior to deployment):
Dear Dr. Gresham,
I wanted to thank you for extending the invitation to the 45th Infantry of the Oklahoma Army National Guard to use SNU’s facilities for welcoming home our soldiers. It is with great pride and excitement that we look forward to their return. Knowing we will be on such a wonderful campus for their return is also exciting.
My husband, 1LT Jamie “Jay” Johnson, will be one of the many retuning home in a few weeks. Jay is SNU Alumni, graduating in December of 2000 with a Bachelor of Science degree and again in May of 2002 with a Master of Science degree, both of which the GI Bill helped pay for. He has been in the Oklahoma Army National Guard for 19 years and has seen and done many things for our state and for our country.
1LT Johnson is with Delta Co. 1/179, and will be reunited with his family in the final welcome-home ceremony on behalf of the 45th Infantry Brigade, on Sunday, October 19 (ceremony time to be determined). As with most of the returning soldier, 1LT Johnson was deployed in October 2007.
I’m sure it is safe to say that Jay is not the only SNU Alumni returning home this month who has served our country in Iraq, but I wanted you to know how excited and thankful we are to get to welcome him home in the same place where he received his higher education, which not only helped him excel in his civilian career, but also in his military career.
Mrs. Shannon Johnson
What has opening the Sawyer Center to the Oklahoma Army National Guard meant for the staff of SNU? Athletic Director, Bobby Martin, put it in perspective, “These men and women have given more than a year of their lives defending our freedom. The least we can do is open the Sawyer Center for a few days to welcome them home.” So, it is with pride that SNU has extended our services to the military and their families this week; it is with a renewed awareness that we remember those who fight for our freedom.
Three ceremonies remain, to complete the welcome-home celebrations for the returning troops of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in the Sawyer Center on the campus of Southern Nazarene University at 6729 NW 39th Expressway in Bethany, Oklahoma. The following ceremonies are open to the public with doors opening two hours prior to each ceremony:
Friday, October 17, 7:30 am, Sawyer Center, Southern Nazarene University
Friday, October 17, 10:30 am, Sawyer Center, Southern Nazarene University
Sunday, October 19 – 9:00 am – Sawyer Center
“We have considered it a privilege to serve as host for the homecoming of these soldiers who, when called, responded with their best on our behalf,” said Dr. Loren Gresham, President of Southern Nazarene University.
Eleven ceremonies have taken place on the campus of SNU since the first ceremony on Sunday, October 12. Throughout the week, families, friends, and the SNU campus community have welcomed many of the more than 2,600 Thunderbird soldiers of the 45th Infantry home.
The Oklahoma National Guard office of Public Affairs will operate the media center at the SNU Sawyer Center. Please R.S.V.P. to Cheryl Thomas at 405.228.5212 or email Cheryl.Thomas4@US.army.mil
with the names of the media representatives. To contact Southern Nazarene University email Carol Wight, Director of Communications & Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 405.921.5191.
Thu, October 16, 2008
by Brenda Styers