Caf Chef Reflects on Life of Service

Larry Ward discusses the intersection of his military service and time at Xavier

By Ben Dickison, Sports News Editor

One of the first people a Xavier student sees when entering the Hoff Dining Commons is a jubilant cook, Larry Ward, serving at the gluten free station.

Photo courtesy of @xavierdining via Instagram

On Veteran’s Day last Friday, Walnut Hills and Blue Ash both held citywide celebrations including parades and art exhibitions. As a veteran, Ward gratefully welcomes these honors, but simplified his decision to serve as a desire “to travel and see things from another perspective.”

Ward has worked for Xavier Dining for 33 years, but has been cooking since he was nine years old. He earned an apprenticeship after graduating from the Army Food Service Specialist Course in 1984. He worked in administrative roles, ordering food for battalions and bases he lived on and also prepared meals for his fellow troops. 

“I do a lot of soul cooking and Italian cooking,” Ward said of his cooking prowess, “but if I have the time to sit down and study it, I can do anything you want.”

As a homage to the three years and nine months he spent in Hawaii, he hosted a luau for students in the cafeteria, then located in Cintas Center. 

Ward dutifully fulfilled the roles of Food Service Specialist, Personnel Records Specialist, Administrative Specialist and ADA Chaparral Missile Crewmember over an illustrious 21-year career that saw him cross the pond to serve in Germany and Egypt.

Perhaps one of the most vivid recollections Ward has is from his time in Korea.

“I served at Fort Stanton, about 15 kilometers from the DMZ (demilitarized zone on the border of North and South Korea),” he said.

He remembers communicating with North Korean soldiers: “They didn’t understand us and we didn’t understand them, but they didn’t want to be there and we certainly didn’t want to be there either. So we’d point across and share a cigarette.”

Ward, who shipped off to basic training when he was 19 years old, found a deeper appreciation for the American experience during his deployments abroad. 

“There were no opportunities for a lot of people there to live their lifestyle. People have no freedom of speech. In some places, a woman cannot walk beside a man down the street. It’s really just a liberty thing,” he said, reflecting on the differences between domestic life in places such as Egypt, Korea and Germany.

During his tenure, Ward earned the Army Commendation Medal, which recognizes consistent acts of heroism and meritorious service. 

In addition, he earned the Army Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal four times over, the National Defense Service Medal, two NCO Professional Development Ribbons, an Army Service Ribbon and two Overseas Service Ribbons.

He also earned the rank of both Sharpshooter and Marksman when serving in a non-combat role.

Ward served domestically in Hawaii, at Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Stanton in Georgia and in Saint Louis for the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC).

His duties ranged from recruitment and record keeping for retired veterans at CPAC to being part of a battalion in Fort Stanton.

As Ward reflects back on his life of service, both in the capacity of the Army and Xavier Dining Services, he notes, “It’s all been an absolute privilege. It’s an achievement, but it’s also a learning experience. In my case, I got the chance to get away from home. Now meeting with students and laughing and sharing stories makes my day, every day.”

From how to prepare the perfect slice of crispy bacon, to how to cultivate a sense of gratitude for American life to how to serve at the highest level of honor and valor, Ward has granted the Xavier community a surplus of lessons and blessings for over three decades.