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The Catalyst

A moving tribute honors MUSC veterans

By Helen Adams
Public Relations

Employees gather to listen to a speaker, receive commemorative pins and be recognized as employee-veterans during the Veterans Day Celebration at the Drug Discovery Building auditorium. photos by Anne Thompson, Digital Imaging

As DeBorah Smalls–Brown sat in the front row at MUSC’s Veterans Day celebration, she thought about her time in the U.S. Air Force. About 30 years have passed since she served as a Morse code systems operator.

“It brought back memories,” Smalls–Brown said. “It’s like wow, just think about all of the members who have served in the military. I consider them my brothers and my sisters. It’s just such a warm fuzzy feeling to have MUSC recognize all the veterans for their service.”

DeBorah Smalls-Brown, a U.S. Air Force veteran,  was among several dozen employee-veterans who attended the event. photo by Helen Adams, Public Relations

Smalls–Brown supervises the scheduling of appointments for doctors.

There are veterans working in almost all areas of MUSC, from surgeons to systems experts to public safety officers.

Provost Mark Sothmann, Ph.D., told the audience of veterans and co–workers that ties are strong between MUSC and the military.

“We at MUSC have always had a special relationship with our veterans through cutting–edge research and clinical care,” Sothmann said. “Today while we’re honoring all MUSC veterans, we also honor the MUSC practitioners, educators and researchers who are working so hard to make our veterans’ lives better.”

Sothmann described how recent events continue to impact MUSC and other medical institutions.

“We need to recognize the human toll of the war on terror that started with 9/11,” Sothmann said.

“I mention that because it gives us a special role here at the Medical University in treating those individuals who have been involved in that war. Sixty–eight hundred service men and women lost their lives, 52,000 have been wounded, 400,000 are living with a medical condition attributed to that war. Eight hundred and seventy–five thousand have filed disability claims and have been approved by the Veterans Administration. Incredible statistics.”

The men and women still serving our country were also on the mind of Melvin Williams, a chaplain with Pastoral Care Services. The Air Force veteran led the audience in a prayer.

“We come today to honor our brave and bold military men and women and their families for their dedication and unmatchable commitment to protecting our freedom. May God continue to bless them and their families,” Williams said.

Col. Dick Sula spoke at the Nov. 10 gathering.

Guest speaker Dick Sula, a retired Air Force colonel, reminded the audience of how the day some may take for granted came about.

“Remember this ceremonial day was born in the aftermath of World War I as Armistice Day,” Sula said. It marked the end of what was known as “the war to end all wars.” The first Armistice Day was in 1919, and it became a legal holiday in 1938. In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor American veterans of all wars.

“It was to be a celebration to single out those who served for their patriotism and love of country and sacrifice for the common good. The observation of this day indicates that every veteran has given a portion of his or her life in defense of our country,” Sula said.

Monday’s ceremony at MUSC included a scrolling list of veterans over a picture of the American flag. Afterward, veterans gathered to share stories.

Michael Andrews, who is with the Biomedical Engineering Department, talked with Vice President for Medical Affairs Bruce Elliott, M.D. Andrews served in the Navy’s submarine service; Elliott was an Army surgeon.

“It’s a great honor to be a veteran,” Andrews said, describing his family’s long history of military service.

Elliott retired from the Army 15 years ago. For him, the Veterans Day ceremony was a time to reflect.

“A lot of déjà vu,” Elliott said. “I saw veterans of Vietnam as well as Gulf War I. Those were my two war experiences.”

Standing nearby, Clifton McDonald, who works in business services, said it was an honor for him and all veterans to be recognized. He served in the Army. “I felt very privileged and appreciated,” McDonald said.

An MUSC public safety officer who served in the Navy echoed that sentiment.

“I think it’s awesome,” Donald Newborn said. “You’ve got a lot of veterans down here.”

Smalls–Brown, the former Morse code operator from the front row, said there are similarities between her job at MUSC and her time in the Air Force.

“I always wanted to be some place where I could feel needed, where I could help somebody being selfless,” Smalls–Brown said. “The military provided that and MUSC provides that as well.”

December 7, 2014



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