(ST. JOSEPH, Mo) A local university was designated as a Purple Heart school in recognition of their service and support to past, present and future veterans.
On Tuesday, Missouri Western State University was presented with the honor from the Military Order of the Purple Heart. A ceremony was held at 3 p.m. that afternoon in Spratt Hall, with a speech from University President Matthew Wilson and a proclamation from St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray.
"We're honored to be able to have had holders of the Purple Heart Medal that have been alumnus, that have been students and, you know, family members as well," Wilson said. "Truly, it's a great day here at Missouri Western as we look to honor and to celebrate our military and our veterans."
To receive the designation, Wilson said the university had to have a certain number of veterans in the community who have received the Purple Heart Medal. The school also underwent a screening process from the Military Order of the Purple Heart, where they checked the University's qualifications and commitment to veterans.
"It truly means a lot when we support and we honor our veterans and our military and our military families," Wilson said. "There are so many sacrifices that these folks have engaged in. I mean truly, for us to be a free country, we've had so many people who have stepped up and they have been brave."
The University also unveiled a new plan to construct a veteran and active military Center for Service on campus. Wilson said it will be a place where all veterans and current service members can come to for support and collaboration.
"It's a place where they can come and get wrap-around services, where we can support them," Wilson said. "We want to make sure that not only are we serving the community but that we're serving members of the Armed Forces and members of the veteran's community."
The Center for Service should roll out in the fall of 2020. However, Wilson said until that's finished the University will have space in Eder Hall where veterans can come together for the same reasons.
On top of that, Western will be looking to hire an employee to fill a newly created position of helping the school invest in supporting military personnel and veterans on an educational stand-point. Wilson said the position should be available within the next one to two weeks.
During the designation ceremony, letters of support and acknowledgment were read aloud sent from Sen. Josh Hawley (D-MO) and Governor Mike Parson (R-MO). Mayor McMurray also reading a proclamation declaring November 12th, 2019, as Missouri Western State University's Purple Heart designation day.
Wilson said it was important to hold the ceremony on the day following Veteran's Day to show the community that honoring veterans shouldn't just be a once-a-year event.
"We want Veteran's Day not to just be November 11th where you forget about it for another 364 days. We really want Veterans Day to be every day, and whatever we can do as an academic institution to support that's something that we want to do," Wilson said.
The Western President added that getting the University designated as a Purple Heart school was on the top of his list when coming into his position back in July 2019. He said receiving the honor will help propel Western forward in continuing to make a commitment towards supporting U.S. Military members.