After a week of vying for votes, nominees wait at the front lines of the R.E. Saint John Memorial Stadium for the announcement of the 2016 King and Queen. Duke and Lulu flanked the sidelines, paws at the ready for their special day.
Last week voting for Homecoming King and Queen opened and the most popular vote was for service dogs Duke and Lulu, who aid KC students Joey Barron and Nick Gaviria. Both men struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving time in the military. PTSD is a mental health condition that can be triggered by a traumatizing event. Each case is different depending on the person. Symptoms range from nightmares to severe anxiety and paranoia. Barron served as a Marine for four and a half years and was critically injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) during his final deployment.
“It’s important for people in this area to get used to people like myself who rely on a service dog for assistance, “Barron said, “They’re not just a pet. They’re highly trained animals that can help veterans like myself on a daily basis.”
Handlers of service dogs often have symptoms that are not easily noticed. Calling attention to the animal’s presence interferes with a service dog’s ability to perform its duties. No matter the situation, it is always best to ask the dog’s handler for permission before actively approaching the dog.
“I feel like it’s a nice way to bring awareness about the veteran students we have on campus,” said Liz Mitchell, Kilgore freshman. “A lot of people don’t know much about service animals and how to act around them when you see one.”
The dogs received enough votes to make the final ballot, but were not able to be named king and queen because it was against Homecoming bylaws. Due to the overwhelming support and campaigning from students, KC decided to crown Duke and LuLu as “honorary” Homecoming King and Queen at the game against Tyler Junior College held last Saturday.
“It’s cool because you don’t usually see that kind of support on a college level,” said Jeff Finley, a Navy veteran at the game.
Kilgore was named to the “Military Friendly Schools” list by Victory Media for the fourth consecutive year, and by honoring Duke and Lulu KC paid homage to this title.
“In our eyes, these two service dogs represent the sacrifices that all of the brave men and women in the armed forces have made. This is just our way to say thank you for their extraordinary service to our country—we will never forget,” said Dr. Brenda Kays, KC president.
Duke and Lulu left the field in their “Blues” (in this case a red, white, and blue) tails wagging with pride and a brand new status.
Campus support doesn’t end with Duke and Lulu. With Veterans Day right around the corner, the college has scheduled several special events.
• Nov. 10: Veterans Day Program presented by the East Texas Oil Museum Docent Guild, 6 p.m. in the Devall Ballroom; featured speaker is Col. John Antal, U.S. Army (retired)
• Nov. 11: Veterans Day Program, 1-3 p.m. in the Devall Ballroom
• Nov. 12: Sounds of Swing big band concert, 7:30 p.m. in Dodson Auditorium, admission is free; donations will be taken up for the Rangerettes’ trip to Pearl Harbor
• Dec. 5-11: Rangerettes travel to Pearl Harbor and will perform at the 75th Anniversary Mass Band Performance at the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial
If anyone is unable to attend these events, they can extend their support by visiting the Letters From Home table located on the second floor of the Randolph C. Watson library.