Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) in Spangle, Wash., began its recent homecoming weekend by honoring Vietnam-era military veterans with a special monument dedication Sept. 29, 2017.
More than 200 alumni, veteran families and friends joined the UCA Choraliers, Symphony Orchestra and Octet gathered outside to recognize the 122 known alumni service men and women who served our country during the Vietnam era, 1960–1975. During the service a monument was dedicated to honor those who served.
The newly erected monument sits proudly on the UCA commons between the administration building and the cafeteria. The gold-lettered, black granite monument resulted from the vision of Michael Walter, retired brigadier general from the class of 1966, and his classmates Bud Smick and Marlene Livingston Curry.
Many of the veterans attending had not returned to campus for quite some time. Other attendees, like Gary Mehling's widow, attended in remembrance. During the ceremony and video tribute that followed, tears trickled down cheeks as people remembered the sacrifices that have been made and those no longer living. Michael Anthony, class of 1970, shared that he last heard taps played at his son’s funeral.
The dedication was a moving and healing experience for many. Walter said, "I spoke with a veteran who reluctantly attended the dedication at the urging of his psychiatrist. He returned Sabbath morning after experiencing his first full night of sleep since the war." It was a privilege to welcome the UCA alumni veterans home.
Homecoming continued after the dedication with vespers and more events Sabbath, when 850 people united to celebrate in worship. A special offering of more than $16,000 was received to help with the current year's need of $98,000 for tuition assistance for returning students. When this offering is combined with a $49,000 matching pledge, UCA only needs $32,835.
The final alumni homecoming event was a Sunday morning pancake breakfast and flag football, during which the UCA all-stars defeated the alumni team. As the campus emptied, UCA was left with the verbal affirmations from alumni who expressed gladness for so many things throughout the weekend. The alumni repeatedly shared how thrilled they are that UCA is so strongly committed to connecting students to Jesus Christ, an important part of their UCA experience.