Paying tribute

Veterans Day
U.S. Air Force Col. Robert G. Certain


Kennesaw State hosts Veterans Day ceremonies

MARIETTA, Ga. (Nov 11, 2016) — Kennesaw State University’s Army ROTC Club, Student Veterans Club, Department of Student Life, and Military and Veteran Services paid tribute to America’s veterans on Wednesday, Nov. 9, with a keynote address by retired U.S. Air Force Col. Robert G. Certain, a Vietnam-era prisoner of war.

Certain served as a B-52 navigator during the Vietnam War, was held in the infamous Hanoi Hilton and the Hanoi Zoo as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down on his 100th combat mission, which ironically would have been his final sortie before returning to the United States. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

“I spent 100 days in the Hanoi Hilton and the Hanoi Zoo,” said Certain, who said he found comfort and strength in “the important things I learned in my youth in the Boy Scouts and at Emory University. The document of faith and scripture, the honor code that was drilled into us at Emory to not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate anyone who did.”

Certain, who wrote the book “Unchained Eagle” about his experience as a POW, became a U.S. Air Force chaplain and retired from the military to become an Episcopal priest. He now serves as executive director of the Military Chaplains Association and officiated at the funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford in 2006.

During his address, Certain paid tribute to the country’s veterans and active duty service personnel. He called on the crowd of about 100 veterans, students, faculty and staff gathered on the Marietta Campus to remember those who served and to live their lives in ways that honor their memory.

“We owe a dose of gratitude to the past … and to the future. They paid the ultimate sacrifice. As free American citizens, we must live more meaningful lives, lives of courage, duty and respect. On this day, we give thanks to God.”

Kennesaw State Vice President for Student Affairs K.C. White, who also spoke at this year’s Veterans Day event, called the occasion “a proud moment for Kennesaw State. Look at our students who are in their uniforms today. You are supported by the best.”

“We lead the way in so many ways. We are proud to be the first public university in Georgia to be recognized as a Purple Heart Designated University,” she said. “Last year, this ceremony took place on the Kennesaw Campus, and we made a commitment to be here today on the Marietta campus.”

“I’ve thought about the day a lot,” White said. “It is right that we pay tribute to our veterans. My dad served in the Marine Corps, and his oldest brother was killed at Iwo Jima. In some ways, I’m thankful my father did not see combat, because he may not have survived. So with a heavy heart, we think about those empty chairs here today for some colleagues who are not here with us.”

Bob Mattox, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Student Success Services, who offered the closing remarks, reminded everyone “this university is a place of inclusion, and that means our nation’s veterans are welcome here. Not every institution of higher education has that. This is a brotherhood and sisterhood of veterans.”

Darrin E. Theriault, KSU’s director of academic testing and a retired major in the U.S. Army, emceed the early Veterans Day celebration, which was organized by Kennesaw State University’s Army ROTC Club, Student Veterans Club, Department of Student Involvement and the office of Military and Veteran Services.

ROTC Cadet Stephen Wechsler, a member of the Marching Owls, played Taps.

-- Robert S. Godlewski

Photos by Lauren Lopez de Azua


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit