Emma Dobbs, Staff Writer
Saint Martin’s University hosted a Veterans Day event on Nov. 8 on the third floor of Cebula Hall. All campus community members were invited to attend this event hosted by the Veterans Club. Those in attendance had the chance to hear from guest speakers, watch a slideshow of photos of community members who have served, and share a meal together as a community. Community members from the American Legion, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Veterans Center also had informational booths set-up for those in attendance.
Father Peter began the event with a prayer and blessing the food before the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem. University President Roy F. Heynderickx spoke on the importance of Veterans Day, and reminded guests that Saint Martin himself is the patron saint of soldiers. Heynderickx stated during his speech that “the university has always had close ties to the military,” and spoke of Richard Cebula and his outreach to education of those in the military.
Following Heynderickx was Keith Looker of the Lacey Veterans Service Hub. Looker is a 32-year Army veteran who retired as a Sergeant Major. He shared the important milestone of this year’s Veterans Day: this Veterans Day is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. Looker also reminded attendees to remember that veterans carry the “scar of the war, both physically and mentally.”
Two thousand veterans live in Thurston County, and this number grows as service members transition out of military life to civilian life, then settle in Thurston county. Looker shared the story of Olympian vet Bruce P. Crandall, a military service member until 1987, who earned the Medal of Honor under the administration of President George W. Bush. Crandall’s story was featured in the film “We Were Soldiers.”
Following Looker was Lindsey Pineda, a social worker from the Veterans’ Assistance Transition and Care Management Program. Pineda discussed the many reasons people join the military, and the sacrifice of those who serve to protect our freedoms. Through sacrifice, Pineda said, veterans protect freedoms such as freedom of speech and religion that all American citizens have access too. Pineda addressed that at times, those who serve ultimately give their lives to protect these American freedoms.
Pineda also discussed the new face of veterans. These 14,500 post-9/11 veterans continue to grow in number and are the youngest and most racially diverse group of veterans. Of these service members, 25 percent are women.
A harsh reality of military service is transitioning from military life to civilian life. Pineda reported that over half of these new veterans report difficulty transitioning into civilian life. The VA helps provide transition services to qualified veterans. Pineda stated that while service members go through rigorous training to enter military service, there is no such training for
transitioning back to civilian life. Pineda stated her goal “to ensure that every transition veteran at least knows what VA healthcare is.” The VA’s comprehensive healthcare system has help for those who need it. Before the event began, small, silk flowers were passed out among guests. Robert McClymond spoke about these flowers called Buddy Poppy’s. McClymond shared that the flowers symbolize hope for survivors of war, and “honor the dead by helping the living.” Funds from Buddy Poppy’s go back to fund service programs for veterans, and other programs organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In addition to this campus event, 400 flags were placed on the grounds in front of Cebula Hall. These flags represent the 400 veteran members of Saint Martin’s University campus.