During the third annual Veterans Day National Roll Call ceremony, members of the VALOR, or Veterans Academic Learning Opportunities and Resources organization, at the college stood before a small but visibly moved audience to pay tribute to soldiers who have died in the line of duty during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Wednesday is Veterans Day.
VALOR strives to provide support to veterans and active military personnel as they transition into the college experience.
The names of 78 former students were called out Monday — 19 from the Air Force, 19 from the Navy, 19 from the Army, 20 from the Marines and one from the Coast Guard.
For VALOR President Joseph Matheny, a veteran himself, the ceremony was a moving experience. Spending more than nine years in the U.S. Army, the junior at the college said he was appreciative of the support he routinely receives from the college’s administration and student population.
“This ceremony means so much to me,” Matheny said. “I had other plans in life, but when 911 happened, I quickly signed up (for the Army). I lost a few good friends overseas. When I see a veteran walking these halls, I want to thank them. Without veterans, we would not have the great nation we have today. It means a lot to have this time to say thank you to those who we didn’t get to bring home.”
As a child, Elizabeth Gantz moved around often, going from military base to military base as the daughter of a soldier. Now, as vice president of VALOR, she has the opportunity to share her experiences and appreciation for veterans and for those in the armed services.
“This day and those in the armed forces hold a very special place in my heart,” she said. “Any chance we have to extend a thank you, we need to seize.”
Encouraging the audience to stand for a verse of “Taps,” Jason Umfress, director of student affairs, noted that the college has worked in recent years to make the campus an atmosphere conducive to supporting veterans and their academic and career pathways. By adding more support staff and veteran-specific techniques to the college’s mission, students with an armed services background are steadily feeling more welcome to the campus. Programs like Monday’s Veterans Day Roll Call ceremony are just one of many events and activities at the college that encourage extended support for soldiers and their families.
“This (ceremony) is such a special program,” Umfress said.
Quoting a Veteran’s Day article penned in 2012 by author Cathy Maxwell, Umfress read the words from “How to Thank a Veteran,” a passage which brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance.
“On behalf of all of us at CCGA, I say thank you,” Umfress said. “Thank you.”