Taking first watch

Dr. Wendell Edwards took the first watch, guarding the vigil flame that was lit during the opening ceremony of the 23rd Annual Veterans Vigil on the Texas A&M University-Commerce campus.

Texas A&M University-Commece faculty and students, and members of the Commerce community gathered at the Rayburn Student Center for the 23rd Annual Veterans Vigil to honor local veterans.

The opening ceremony featured a speech by retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Steven Allemang.

“A&M-Commerce has a long and outstanding record of providing support to our nation’s veterans,” he said, adding that the best way to honor veterans is to “live: exercise your freedoms, get out and vote and let your voice be heard.”

He encouraged other veterans in the room, telling them that every veteran has had an impact on their country.

“To my fellow veterans: stand tall, stand proud,” he said. “You have made a difference.”

The program featured remarks from A&M-Commerce president Dr. Dan Jones, Commerce Mayor Dr. John Ballotti, a video created by Robyn Price, the posting of the colors of the Greenville High School NJROTC Color Guard and an invocation by Dr. Joseph Webber. Aubrey England sang the national anthem.

GMC Vic Tornero, Sr., a retired chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy, related the history of the POW/MIA flag, while the vigil flame was lit by retired Air Force Lt. Col.l Ted Oats.

Allemang and fellow A&M-Commerce student and retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. George Evanko received the ASTP Memorial Scholarship from A&M-Commerce Director of Alumni Relations Derryle Peace. The scholarship was endowed by a group of veterans from the Army Specialized Training Program, Unit 4813.

The vigil flame will remain lit and guarded in the walking mall in front of the Rayburn Student Center until the closing ceremony, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today.

Dr. Wendell Edwards took the first watch over the flame.