ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) greeted the crowd, and Capt. Grady Jolly of Abilene, a retired veteran of the 452nd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force during World War II, offered the invocation.
A video presentation introduced 99-year-old Roland Johnson, who served more than four decades in the U.S. Cavalry, including assignments for the Army during World War II and afterward as part of the Counter Intelligence Corps in Japan and Korea, and as a teacher of R.O.T.C. units in Louisiana. Johnson also preached in G.I. congregations in the United States, Europe and Asia, and earned bachelor’s (’64) and master’s (’67) degrees in religious education from ACU.
Johnson plays patriotic songs on a harmonica for senior citizen centers and nursing homes in Abilene, and treated the Moody Coliseum crowd to a rendition of “Oh, Dear Christian College,” followed by “God Bless America.”
ACU’s Grand Chorus, directed by Dr. Sean Pullen, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “A Tribute to the Armed Services” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and a large American flag was unfurled from the rafters. Pullen is ACU’s director of choral activities and assistant professor of vocal conducting, music education and voice.
Dr. Paul Piersall, chair of the music department and professor of voice, served as narrator. Special guests included the ACU Board of Trustees; State Rep. Susan King; Col. David Been, commander of the 7th Bomb Wing at Abilene’s Dyess Air Force Base, and numerous veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
Abilene has a storied history with the U.S. military, going back to the 1940s, when Camp Barkeley – once located southwest of Abilene – was the training headquarters for the 45th Infantry, 19th Infantry and 12th Armored Division, and the last American soil from which soldiers entered World War II battlefields in Europe. Among other missions, the 12th Armored Division was responsible for liberating prisoners from Nazi concentration camps.