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Honoring our veterans in 2023

The tradition of honoring Utah’s veterans and one student veteran of the year, continues at the University of Utah’s 26th annual Veterans Day Commemoration Ceremony.

The tribute—held in the A. Ray Olpin Union Building ballroom on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at 11 a.m.—The commemoration ceremony was preceded by a bagpipe procession from the J. Willard Marriott Library Plaza to the Union at 10:30 a.m.

Nominations came from across the state, and the 11 veterans honored received a commemorative medallion on stage at the ceremony.

“I believe that raising one’s hand and taking an oath to do whatever the nation asks at risk of life and limb is an act of courage, honor, commitment, and sacrifice,” said Fa’a Taupa’u, director of the University of Utah Veterans Support Center. “It is a privilege to be part of the university’s commemoration honoring some of Utah’s most noteworthy veterans and service members.”

Air Force ROTC Cadet Colton Thedie led the ceremony conducted by cadets from the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTCs. Lt. Col. Christopher Kroeber, Utah Air National Guard and member of the Veterans Day committee narrated the medallion presentation.

In her remarks, Provost Mitzi Montoya recalled a quote from President Abraham Lincoln to soldiers returning from the Civil War: “The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”

Montoya noted the U has between 1,300 and 1,400 military-connected students, thanking them, the Veterans Support Center, and the hundreds of military veterans in the room.

“No matter when you served or in which of our armed forces, we appreciate you answering the call of your country,” she said. “We owe much to many more veterans than could fit in this room. As you remember your friends or loved ones in the military this weekend, consider reaching out to them to share your recognition and gratitude.

Lorna Murray, a high school history teacher, gave the keynote address. Murray’s father Eugene Neilson, prisoner of war from World War II, was among the first veterans to be honored by the U at the first commemoration in 1997.

Murray reflected that "a historian was born" at the age of 14 when her father, at the age of 56, told her for the first time of his own POW experience in the Philippines as a survivor of the Palawan Massacre.

Murry pursued education as an adult and has passionately taught history since 1981. She joined the U’s Veteran’s Day committee in 2000 to continue the tradition of honoring our service men and women.

"I stand here today to express to every veteran my eternal and undying gratitude," said Murray. "Words cannot begin to express my gratitude to all those who have served past and present and I can never repay those who have fought and died remaining forever young in our memories, but also to those who have fought and lived."

2023 Student Veteran of the Year, Michael Meszaros, click to enlarge.

The Student Veteran of the Year was awarded to Michael Meszaros in recognition of his advocacy work for the veterans community of the Salt Lake Valley and representation of indigent defendants in the criminal justice system. Within his first two years at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, Meszaros found his place in the top third of his class. He earned an Outstanding Academic Achievement Award for his performance in legal research, served on the Utah Law Review as junior staff, and was selected to represent the college on the National Moot Court Competition Team for the 2023-24 academic year. Read his full bio here.

Members of the community are invited to attend the Utah National Guard’s 67th Annual Veterans Day Concert, Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m., in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.  The concert will feature the 23rd Army Band and the combined Granite School District high school choir, performing an array of patriotic songs. Information about this free event can be found here.


The 2023 honorees: