‘The backbone of our nation’: UT honors military families in annual wreath-laying ceremony

Austin American-Statesman (Nov 2023) | Lily Kepner

The University of Texas recently held its annual wreath-laying ceremony to honor U.S. veterans and their families at the Frank Denius Family University of Texas Athletics Hall of Fame.

The wreath, adorned in burnt orange ribbon, tiger lilies and white roses, was laid Thursday in the Veterans Memorial Plaza in front of Royal-Memorial Stadium.

UT President Jay Hartzell, ROTC cadets, faculty members working in veterans and military research or services, and a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral participated in the ceremony. The 1st Cavalry Division Band played the national anthem and “The Eyes of Texas.”

As is traditional, the ceremony was held the Thursday before the annual veterans recognition game Saturday at UT, where the Longhorns defeated Kansas State 33-30 in the stadium dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

Lawson Magruder, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who gave the welcome and closing remarks at the event, said the stadium is the largest war memorial in Texas. He also pointed to the importance of recognizing veterans.

“The legacy of generations of patriots who dedicated their lives in the service of our country makes a strong, resilient nation,” Magruder said. “This Veterans Day and throughout the year, veterans’ stories connect Americans with the value of our military service and inspire the next generation to serve.”

The ceremony focused on the role of military and veteran families in supporting their country.

Elisa Borah, a research associate professor in social work and the director of UT’s Institute of Military and Veteran Family Wellness, an initiative of the UT Dell Medical School and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, spoke at the event about the institute’s work and about being the spouse of a veteran herself.

“We believe that when the service member serves, their family serves alongside them,” Borah said. “We believe that military and veteran families thrive when they are part of strong supportive communities that offer peer-based support and guidance.”

Borah and the institute research military families’ needs and use those findings to inform the services they provide. The institute also provides training to professionals about ways they can serve veterans and their families, and collaborates with community organizations to offer support.

The institute was founded about five years ago, Borah said, and is expanding its virtual programming nationally this year.

“There’s enough of a demand that we felt we had to expand to reach that population,” Borah said in an interview. “There’s tons of veteran service organizations, but they don’t always have the programming in house to support the spouses of those veterans who are also looking for support and education.”