There’s a natural history behind the University of Utah’s decades of celebrating the state’s veterans.
It just makes sense that a university—a place of free thought and open debate—would be home to one of the longest Veterans Day celebrations in the state, President Taylor Randall said.
“Universities are places of debate, places that explore concepts such as freedom and justice and liberty, that would not exist without the people who are here today,” Randall told the crowd of veterans, their family members and supporters gathered in the Student Union Building at the 25th Annual Veterans Day Commemoration Nov. 11.
The university president and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox thanked Utah’s veterans and their families for their service and, in some cases, making the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives.
“Every one of us today should think about why we should remember these individuals who have given their lives for our country,” Randall said.
Cox remembered his friend, North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2018. One of Taylor’s last Facebook posts before his death, Cox said, was a reminder to vote. The governor noted that Election Day and Veterans Day fell in the same week this year.
“This week, I’m celebrating Veterans Day twice,” Cox said.
The University of Utah honored 11 Utah veterans and presented the Student Veteran of the Year Award in 2022. The tribute was one of a series of events held throughout the week to honor veterans. Events included a concert, a BBQ and a dodgeball tournament.
The commemoration ceremony was preceded by a bagpipe procession from the J. Willard Marriott Library Plaza to the Student Union Building at 10:30 a.m. Nominations came from across the state, and the 11 veterans honored each received a commemorative medallion.
“The University of Utah is committed to honoring Utah veterans, from World War II to the present conflicts, who have made incredible sacrifices for our nation,” said Jennifer Robinson, co-chair of the Veterans Day Committee. “It’s been our honor at the U to host this ceremony for 25 years.”
Since the U began holding the Veterans Day ceremony in 1998, nearly 300 veterans have been honored, representing all branches of the U.S. military, including Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.
“We are thankful to the university for their continued support in student military and veteran programs,” said Faamai Taupau, the new director of the Veterans Support Center and co-chair of the Veterans Day Committee. “Together, we have built a Veteran Support Center that offers GI Bill services, Veterans Administration-supported counseling and many other critical programs that support our military and veteran students’ academic and personal achievements.”
“This adds tremendous value to one of the most diverse and growing organizations on campus,” Taupau added. “We have come a long way since we opened this center 10 years ago. We look forward to what we can do in the next 10 years.”
The 2022 Student Veteran of the Year is Cody Crane, in recognition of the “steady, earnest and energetic effort” he puts into his life, schoolwork, community and military service. Crane earned his B.S. in Kinesiology from the U in 2020. He began physical therapy school at the University of Utah last spring.
As the neuro pro bono clinic director and American Physical Therapy Association class representative, Crane oversees the development of policies, procedures and quality assurance for the clinic, as well as leads the board meetings. Along with other students and licensed physical therapists, he provides free quality care to patients who cannot pay for health care or are uninsured. He also volunteers two hours every week for his director’s duties.
Utah Athletics recognized service men and women from all branches of service at a special halftime show during the Utah vs. Stanford football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12. On-field recognitions included Crane as the Student Veteran of the Year.