Students, staff, faculty and members of the community gathered at the University of Central Missouri Quadrangle, Wednesday, in observance of Patriot Day on the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
The Fighting Mules Battalion, the Office of Military and Veteran Services and first responders from Warrensburg, Johnson County and Whiteman Air Force Base attended the ceremony.
To begin the ceremony, Jeff Huffman, director of Military and Veteran Services, welcomed everyone and introduced the UCM Army ROTC color guard.
“We’re going to present the colors,” said Davontae Hair, Color Guard captain of the UCM Army ROTC. “Bring it up to the full mast and back down to half staff in recognition of 9/11.”
The keynote speakers were Megan and Dale Duncan, parents of Spencer C. Duncan who died in action Aug. 6, 2011, when the Chinook helicopter in which he was riding was shot down in Afghanistan.
Megan Duncan told her family’s story.
“There are dates in our lives that change our lives forever,” she said, mentioning her marriage, the birth of their three sons, her parents’ passing and the date when her oldest son, Spencer, was killed.
“Sept. 11, 2001, changed everyone’s life,” she said. “The world changed.”
Dail Blake, president of the Spencer C. Duncan Make it Count Foundation, said Dale and Megan elicit strong emotions when they speak.
“Hearing them always sparks more motivation in me to spread the story of the important work of serving the needs of the transitioning vet, the sufferer of PTSD and the homeless veteran,” he said. “Sometimes all three are found in one place.”
Megan Duncan said her husband would share words of encouragement when he left for work every morning. “In a strong but quiet voice he would say, ‘Goodbye, family. Make it count,’” she said.
Both Megan and Dale said they know their son Spencer made every day count, as his legacy lives on through the Make it Count Foundation.
The foundation benefits the lives of veterans through book scholarships, entrepreneurship programs, experiential seminars, and meeting physical needs for meals and basic services.
As Megan Duncan told more of their story, those listening pulled tissues from their pockets, dabbed their eyes and embraced one another.
Lt. Col. Jason Christenson, professor of Military Science and Leadership, led a time of reflection and at the end of the ceremony presented the Duncans with flowers.
The ceremony concluded with the Firefighters Prayer, ringing of the bell, and playing of taps.