The Military Honor Cord: Honoring As Well As Serving Our Vets
By Dan Sheridan
On June 2, certain Bellevue University grads will proudly march, conspicuous because of a braided honor cord around their necks, one strand each of red, white and blue. On both extremities of the cord hang tassels; these, too, a mingled display of the colors of Old Glory.
The students wearing this unique honor cord are men and women in uniform, both vets and those on active duty, who are being recognized “not only for their educational accomplishments,” says Roy Crouch, retired U.S. Airforce and former Military Outreach Specialist at Bellevue University, “but for their contribution to their country.”
The Military Honor Cord worn by these graduates is a visible sign of the principles inherent at Bellevue University and its Military Veteran Service Center (MVSC). “Once we got the center up and running, which is dedicated to serving our vets,” explains Jim Biernesser, former Senior Director of Military Programs at Bellevue University, “we wanted to find ways to honor them, as well, for their commitment to the country and our Constitution. The Military Honor Cord was one of our honor solutions.”
Bellevue University, through the Honor Cords, distinguishes its graduating veterans on their doubly proud day. Officially known as the Veteran and U.S. Military Recognition Cords, they made their debut at Bellevue University in 2014. How do our graduating heroes get their cord? According to Lisa Jorgensen, Senior Director of Community Affairs at Bellevue University, students are asked on commencement entrance forms if they are military members and if they would like to wear the cord, which is included, along with their gowns, caps, and tassels, with their graduation gear. The cords are free and theirs to keep.
Of those who signed up to walk for graduation, Bellevue University’s January 2018 graduation class saw 95 students requesting Military Honor Cords, which was 20 percent of the grads who signed up to participate. For next month’s commencement, 127 students have requested the cords thus far, which is 17 percent of those who signed up to walk.
Other learning institutions throughout the country also salute their military students with the Military Honor Cord. The University of Nebraska, for instance, began the tradition in 2013, and Penn State got into the game in 2016. Even high schools are honoring their graduating seniors who are going into the military with the distinguishing cord. What began with only a few schools in 2012 is now becoming a national patriotic phenomenon.
Many Bellevue University students who they take their courses online are not able to be physically present during graduation. “When I travelled for Bellevue,” says Crouch, “I sought out our military students in the area I was visiting who couldn’t be present for graduation and personally gave them their Honor Cord.”
Crouch’s actions while on the road were inspired by Bellevue University’s principles. “The students were impressed that we sought them out,” explained Crouch, “we were going out of our way to take the time to recognize them for their accomplishments. We weren’t just another university that didn’t seem to care about their students after they graduated, but we sought them out face to face and through that personal contact we demonstrated to them that we truly care.”
The Military Honor Cord is also a means of introducing veteran students to the MVSC. “Some of Bellevue’s veteran students were unaware of the center,” explained Biernesser, “and when we gave them their Military Honor Cords we had the opportunity to talk to them about how we might further serve them through the center.”
The Military Honor Cord is a visible symbol of Bellevue University’s ongoing commitment to both serve and honor our heroes in uniform, said Crouch. “I consider my time working at Bellevue University and the Military Veteran Service Center as one of the proudest seasons of my life,” said Crouch proudly, “to be able to work, side by side, with honorable men like JR (Jerome Richardson), Wade Jensen, Dr. Jon Kayne, and Jim Biernesser was an honor I’ll always cherish. We made a difference.”
You can see our Spring 2018 military students wearing the Honor Cords on graduation day, online at: https://mediastream.bellevue.edu/Mediasite/Play/dbeb301028864c9d96f2b9bc25d6341f1d