A 48-star flag that once flew over Pearl Harbor is an important family heirloom for Kenyon painter Ward Stover. And on special occasions — including Veterans Day, which takes place this year on Saturday — he makes sure to fly it at his home in Mount Vernon.
A former member of the U.S. Coast Guard who signed up when he was 22, Stover credits his service with teaching him important qualities — such as accountability and reliability — at a crucial time in his personal development.
“I decided my life needed a little bit more structure,” said Stover, a petty officer second class who served from 1982-86 with two years of active duty.
A number of veterans are spread across Kenyon’s campus — their numbers and contributions to our country too vast to convey in a single story — creating a small but proud community.
In the Maintenance Building on the south side of campus, Manager of Facilities Services Gary Sweeney has an office that is full of reminders of his career in the Marines, which spanned 21 years and involved everything from directing artillery fire to instructing at Marine officer schools. There are photos of him training in 1971 in Okinawa, Japan, during the Vietnam War and posing in his desert camouflage in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield in 1990.
Sweeney, whose father fought in World War II, has served the College since 2003 and was honored with the Middle Path Medal on Founders’ Day last month for his long-standing contributions. He said he learned a lot in the military, and he tries to pass on those lessons to those around him.
“It’s a matter of pride in what you do and instilling that pride in people who work for you,” said Sweeney, who joined the Marines as a college freshman and retired with the rank of major.
Greg von Freymann, second shift supervisor with Campus Safety, joined the Air Force in 1986 at age 17. He was following a family tradition: his relatives have served in Vietnam, World War II and World War I; two brothers joined the military, too, including one who was an Air Force pilot who died in a crash.
A welder in a civil engineering unit, von Freymann served two tours in Iraq during the Gulf War setting up landing zones for special ops teams. He left in 1992 as a sergeant.
Like the others, von Freymann, who sports an Air Force tattoo featuring a large eagle on his upper arm and who has worked at Kenyon for 28 years, is proud of his service.
“I think it’s a great thing you can do to serve your country,” he said. “There’s less than 1 percent of the population that actually serves in the military, so it’s such a small amount of people that defend our country. That’s a big thing for me.”
Ian Smith P’24 ’27, vice president for facilities, planning and sustainability, has a long family history of military service that goes back to the country’s origins.
“The earliest family history we have in this regard is that one of my great-great-great-great grandfathers and one of his sons served in the Connecticut militia under General (George) Washington at Valley Forge over the winter of 1777-78.”
Smith, who was commissioned in 1985, signed up for the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps Collegiate Program at the start of his senior year of college and went on to serve five years active duty, rising to the rank of lieutenant. This included time with one of the Navy’s construction battalions, known as the “Seabees.” After receiving a master’s degree and starting a civilian career as an engineer, he returned from 1992-93 as a drilling reservist.
Jeff McGlamery, director of facility operations who started at Kenyon earlier this year, was a Navy Seabee, too, from 1987 to 2010, retiring with the rank of senior chief petty officer. He had been attending college in the hopes of becoming a history teacher, but when trying to juggle a job with his studies became too much, he joined the Navy and found his niche as a utilitiesman who officially focused on plumbing.
“The great thing was when you weren’t doing that, you were working with carpenters and masons and equipment operators, learning their jobs, too, by helping them out,” he said. “I learned a ton about construction and maintenance.”
Johnny Simms, a rover in the Kenyon maintenance department for the past five years, was an E4 in the Army from 1988-1992 and the National Guard from 1993-94. A mechanic, he spent time all around the world, including Korea, Germany and the Netherlands.
“I got to travel a lot,” said Simms, whose father was an Army drill sergeant who served in Vietnam. “I like meeting new people, different backgrounds.”
His colleague Dan West, a technical trades helper at Kenyon for six years, said he joined the Marines Reserve — serving from 2012 until this past May — out of a sense of duty to serve his country.
A mechanic with the rank of sergeant who worked on big trucks and Humvees, his experiences around the globe were invaluable — both in providing technical knowhow and in influencing his outlook on the world.
“There’s a lot of stuff we take for granted, around Gambier or anywhere,” he said. “The niceties we have that are so readily available, that’s not the case in a lot of other places in the world.”
Kimberley Hammond, facilities logistics manager, was the first person in her family to join the military. A lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, she spent 21 years active duty and worked in logistics after being part of the ROTC program at Bowling Green University.
Her work made for a seamless transition to Kenyon two years ago — in more ways than just her professional duties.
“We learned service before self, which I think really relates to what we do now,” she said. “It’s not all about you. It’s about helping others.”
She hopes that’s a lesson that resonates with students this Veterans Day, a day of remembrance that originally was known as “Armistice Day” to mark the end of World War I but which since was changed to honor all veterans of all American wars.
“Veterans — active, retired, POWs — all of them and their families have given so much,” she said.