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June 3, 2011

ULM professor hosts annual event focused on military “homecomings”

Anyone who has ever spent an extended period of time away from friends and loved ones knows all too well the anticipation that builds as the time for being reunited edges closer.

For generations, numerous stories have been told that tout the thrill of coming home and which use the homecoming theme to illustrate important life lessons.

That’s the word from ULM Associate Professor of Social Work Michael Cappel, who said homecomings “give meaning to the departure and completes the circle.” 

Cappel should know. He served during the Vietnam conflict and was honorably discharged in April 1971 before entering the social work profession, often helping others as they left the military and re-entered civilian life. 

“During my tenure, it was common to count down the remaining days on a ‘short-timer’s’ calendar,” he said. “We meticulously colored in each numbered square until an idolized female figure would become unveiled, thus serving as a symbolic representation of the unbridled joy one would soon be experiencing.”

Cappel just completed his eighth year of hosting and coordinating Louisiana’s annual Run For The Wall event, which celebrates all things homecoming for the men and women serving in the U.S. military.

Cappel coordinated a supper for approximately 700 veterans and supporters on Sunday, May 22. Prior to the meal, a toast was raised to the service members who have not yet returned home and who are still Missing in Action. 

“One of the goals of the organization is to promote public awareness of all those military personnel who have not yet had their homecoming, who have not yet returned to their families who still miss them and who make up the ranks of our MIA,” explained Cappel. “That is why we toast the brave men and women for whom a “missing man” table is set. We thank them for their service and wish them Godspeed in their return home to us.”

Every year, motorcycle-riding veterans traveling from Los Angeles arrive on Memorial Day at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. in an overwhelming show of support for the military.

The motorcade of hundreds entered Ouachita Parish traveling west down I-20 around 5 p.m. and left from the Sam’s Club parking lot at 8 the next morning.

All expenses are paid by individual contributions made throughout the state.

“This year is an important one in matters of military interest as it commemorates both the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the start of the Civil War,” said Cappel. “I encourage everyone to study both conflicts with an open mind to best discover the lessons that can be learned.”

The Louisiana Chapter of National Association of Social Workers recently recognized Cappel with a Lifetime Achievement Award, given for achievement over a lifetime in the social work profession, as well as having made contributions of lasting impact and consistent demonstrations of outstanding creativity.

For individuals and organizations wishing to learn more about The Run For The Wall, contact Cappel at

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