UConn Honors Veterans
Emily Lewson
Daily Campus
November 12, 2014
UConn honored its current and retired military members during the Veteran’s Day Ceremony on the Great Lawn in front of the Wilbur Cross building Monday.

The ceremony included a color guard, the laying of a wreath and two keynote speakers: UConn President, Dr. Susan Herbst and Executive Director of the Connecticut Office of Military Affairs, Bob Ross.

The tradition of Veterans Day dates back to Armistice Day 1947 in Birmingham, Alabama. World War II veteran, Raymond Weeks, organized a parade and other festivities to honor veterans and named it “National Veterans Day.” Seven years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill, which marked Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.

Veterans Day has been celebrated at UConn as a reminder of those who have served and sacrificed as well as a reinforcement of the support they can find here.

“When the United States entered the First World War in 1917, in fact, more than 600 of our students, faculty, and staff enlisted in the military – an even more impressive number when you recall that we were a small agricultural college at the time,” Herbst said. “That commitment to our nation’s armed services has remained with us up to the present day, when we have roughly 400 veterans enrolled in our student body, and more than 200 members of our faculty and staff who have served their country.”

She proceeded to explain the opportunities veterans have on campus, ranging from the OASIS Center, an on-campus lounge space for servicemen and women, to an entrepreneurial program specialized for veterans starting a business.

Event Organizer and Veterans Benefits Manager, Dan Kowalchik, agreed with Herbst’s sentiments.

“UConn is doing more and more for its veterans,” Kowalchik said. “This school is recognized as a national university for veterans, so that means when servicemen and women are looking for an education, they’ll look here first.”

While Herbst’s speech highlighted what UConn does for its veterans, guest speaker Ross highlighted the impact military servicemen and women have on this campus.

“As veterans, you bring unique character and life experiences to this enterprise. You enrich this campus,” Ross said. “We are glad that you are here making your unique contribution. You are right where you should be.”

Ross noted that the “intersection of so many people” at this university is like the military, inferring that veterans should feel at home achieving here.

“A college campus, is in many ways, similar to a large military base. It has this massive infrastructure all aligned to support a mission in research and education,” Ross said. “And in this place, people from all walks of life come together, get organized, and produce real desired outcomes.”

In addition to comparing college campus and military bases, Ross demonstrated the effect the military can have on an individual. Specifically, Ross related how a military-learned work ethic influences and encourages servicemen and women to achieve more.

“That work ethic and those values stay with you for a lifetime. They shape who you are and what you do long after our military service. Be grateful for that,” Ross said.

“There are not many organizations that create a place to have such lasting life-changing impacts on a people’s life.”

While military members may learn greater values from their service, the connectedness of the people and their military has been lessening over the years, Ross said. He indicated that while the media often speaks of the one percent referring to the wealthiest Americans, another one percent exists—that of military servicemen and women.

“Every generation of the 99 percent is becoming increasingly unfamiliar with ‘their’ military. All they know of the military is what they see in the media—and we know that that is often an inaccurate and incomplete representation,” Ross said. “So, it is critically important that our services and our veterans stay engaged to help enlighten and be enlightened. At the end of the day, we are all Americans who should understand and care about each other.”

Ross’s sentiments sum up the Veteran’s Day Ceremony and what all Americans should remember tomorrow. We are all Americans and we can all thank a veteran for that.