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News: Veterans praised for selfless service during Roane State's first Veteran Wave event

November 11, 2021

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

Veterans from all branches of the military were thanked and praised for their unwavering dedication to duty during Roane State Community College’s inaugural observance of a program titled the “Veteran Wave.”

“Selfless service is the bedrock foundation that our veterans have displayed time and time again,” said Roane State President Emeritus Dr. Gary Goff.

Goff, the keynote speaker for the ceremony, was the college’s fourth president and is a retired colonel with 30 years in the Army. He served as president of Roane State from 2005 to 2012.

Forming a backdrop for the occasion was a line of 110 American flags – each representing a veteran – that stretched some 200 yards along the college’s front lawn.

Called the “Veteran Wave” project, the flags will be displayed at Roane State’s nine campuses next Veterans Day and from Memorial Day through July 4 in 2022 and 2023.

“We are proud to help honor local veterans for their service,” said Dr. Diane Ward, Roane State’s vice president of student learning, who is credited with spearheading the effort.

The community college is responsible for the setup and takedown of all flags, and sponsors can select the campus where they want their flags displayed. Flags will be stored at Roane State when not on display. Each flag can either be claimed by the respective sponsor or retired with honors at the conclusion of the two-year time frame.

“Honoring the sacrifices many have made for our country in the name of freedom and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day,” said Dr. Chris Whaley, the college’s current president. “Today, we remember those who answered the call to serve our country and protect our freedoms.”

Whaley introduced veterans from conflicts from World War II to the War on Terror. Veterans in attendance included Hoke Culbertson, age 100, representing World War II veterans; Corporal Charles Oran, representing Korean War veterans; Major Bruce Cantrell, Vietnam War; Corporal Roger D. Garren Jr., Desert Storm; and Chief Barry Floyd, War on Terror.

Roane State student Jason Rutledge was recognized as the 2021 recipient of the “Chancellor’s Challenge Coin,” a system-level award to honor the service, bravery and sacrifices of military veterans within the campus communities.

Cantrell, a Roane State faculty member, was the 2020 recipient. The pandemic prevented officials from hosting an official presentation last year.

The Roane State Instrumental Ensemble concluded the ceremony with its renditions of each military branch’s fight song. Veterans from each branch stood when their song was played.

For information on Veteran Wave flag sponsorships, contact Tamsin Miller, special assistant to President Whaley, by emailing or calling (865) 882-4640. Additional details on the project are available online at

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