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WCU launches Veterans and Military Alumni Society

By Geoff Cantrell

Honoring Service

 

Melissa Metcalf Le Roy believes her father, the late Oscar William Metcalf Jr., would have been the first to apply for membership in Western Carolina University’s new Veterans and Military Alumni Society. 

Metcalf

 

Metcalf, a decorated Vietnam War vet, died Oct. 18, at the age of 72 in Shelbyville, Tennessee. “He dearly loved Western,” said Le Roy. “He was proud of his alma mater, the opportunities it gave him. He went to college while working full time and raising a young family. The university supported him, and (his bachelor’s degree) really meant something.” 

With the nation’s annual observance of Veterans Day upon us, WCU’s Office of Alumni Engagement is launching a new alumni group designed to help former students with service in the U.S. Armed Forces connect with one another – and with their alma mater.

The typical member of the alumni society would be anyone who has served or is serving in the military, said Elizabeth Qualls, coordinator of affinity programs for WCU Alumni Engagement. Both in-person and virtual events are planned for participants to socialize and find common bonds and support.  

“Since the society will be most successful when alumni are interested and participating, we will be taking suggestions from members for events and activities,” Qualls said. “The opportunities are endless. Our main goal is to have an alumni society where they can build a community and have events tailored to their interests. WCU will also provide mentoring opportunities and different ways for alumni to engage with the university.” 

Veterans Day

 

Metcalf had been looking forward to such involvement, Le Roy said. He had been scheduled for an honor flight to Washington, D.C., that was unfortunately canceled because of the pandemic. A special ceremony prior to Veterans Day was scheduled for him at the Bedford County, Tennessee, courthouse on Sunday, Nov. 8. 

Even though Metcalf, an Asheville native, died from cancer prior to the ceremony, the event went ahead as planned, with his family being formally recognized. Among the medals and commemorative items presented was a Zippo lighter.

“That was special. Dad had an inscribed USS America Zippo lighter during the war,” Le Roy said. “But when I was born, he was determined to quit smoking. So, one day, as he drove to Cullowhee for class and instinctively went to light a cigarette, he instead tossed the lighter and cigarette out the window. He successfully quit smoking, but later wished he done it without losing the lighter. This replica was to replace that keepsake.”

A celebration of life for Metcalf’s friends and family in Western North Carolina will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22, at Jackson Park in Hendersonville.

For more information on the WCU Veterans and Military Alumni Society, contact Qualls at 828-227-7335 or equalls@wcu.edu.

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