Student Veterans and BC’s 2nd annual Vet Fest

Vet shirt sonya and tina oct 2014

Sonya Christian with Tina Mendoza showcasing the new vet t-shirt

BC celebrated the second annual vet fest, five days ago, on Nov 6, 2014. This event was initiated last year by Wesley Barrientos, President of our student Vet Club, and Paul Beckworth, Associate Dean of Counseling.  This year the team was joined by our new Education Advisor, Tina Mendoza, a vet herself.

Student veterans, BC’s faculty and staff salute you and thank you for your service!

BC currently has 421 student veterans, an increase of 11% over last year.  However student veterans have consistently hovered between 1.6% to 1.9% of our total student population over the last five years.


– 77% of the student veterans are male

– 54% are Hispanic

– 58% are between the ages of 25 and 39

These students tend to perform at higher rates compared to the average for the student population.

Retention data Fall 2014

The data was compiled by Michael Carley, one of our Institutional Researchers.

You may enjoy reading a piece that I wrote about our student veterans back in June 2013 while traveling and in transit at the Singapore airport:

Our student veterans

This year’s Vet Fest was a truly great event. It included community resource booths so that our students could be introduced to their services.  Wesley facilitated the program, with speakers representing Mccarthy’s office and Valadao’s office. We have a number of photos posted online for your enjoyment!

But it was Paul Beckworth as the final speaker who had the audience holding their breath. Here is his presentation in full:

Paul and Wesley Halloween 2014

Paul Beckworth as Wolverine and Wesley Barientos as Lieutenant Dan in full Halloween spirit on Oct 31, 2014.

Paul Beckworth, speaking at Renegade VetFest 2014

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Bakersfield College Vetfest, put on by our own BC Veterans Club.  Thank you all for attending this event.  Thank you for Dr. Christian for attending and supporting this event.  I would also like to the Kern Community College District for honoring Veterans Day ON Veterans Day, instead of whichever Monday lands closest to the holiday.

I would briefly like to speak about our own BC veterans, past and present, and their impact.  I would first like to speak about a BC legend; Dr. John Collins taught and coached at Bakersfield College from 1955 to 1966.  He returned as Bakersfield College’s president, leading BC in that capacity from 1972-1983.  Before he was a beloved leader at BC, Dr. Collins led another group of people.  Dr. Collins served in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II. He commanded an Anti-Tank Company in the 165th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division of the Army. He saw heavy fighting in the terrible battles on Saipan and Okinawa. Dr. Collins was honorably discharged as a captain after the war and was always proud of his Combat Infantryman Badge.  How about that?  He earned a doctorate, was a college professor, and president, yet one of his most cherished accomplishments was earning the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Dr. Oliver Rosales Sr., was twice wounded in Vietnam, came home and also earned a Ph.D. and taught at Bakersfield College.  Now his son, Dr. Oliver Rosales Jr. teaches at Bakersfield College as one of its finest history professors.

Our own KCCD Chancellor, Sandra Serrano, is the proud daughter of a World War II combat infantryman.  In February 1945 Eddie Serrano was grievously wounded fighting the Germans in Northern Europe.  As an NCO he had been ordered to lead his men across an open field to take out a machine gun nest.  As a result of that action he spent 11 months in a hospital bed recuperating from wounds inflicted upon his body.  When asked decades later how he could obey such an order knowing it he would most likely be killed or wounded, he simply replied, “It was my duty.”  With a family heritage like that, it is no surprise his daughter became a college president and chancellor.  With legacies like these is it any wonder that BC has some of the most dedicated, hardworking leaders, and educators in the state?

Today, we have numerous BC faculty, and staff who served our nation.  We have over nearly 400 identifiable veterans attending BC, and a few hundred more who are not identified.  So, who are these student-veterans?  They are mainly in their late twenties, with majors ranging from nursing to welding.  Female student-veterans account for about ¼ of all BC veterans.  Some served in combat, some didn’t.  But veterans all.  How can you spot a student-veteran?  His gait is sure, his gaze is set, his sights are high.  Her determination is steady, her mission is clear, and her purpose is success.  Failure is not an option.  They improvise, adapt, and overcome.  While there is a fine line between griping and whining, the student-veteran rarely crosses it.

For the BC student-veterans, college is another opportunity to challenge themselves, making themselves better.  The military gave them vision and where there is no vision, people perish.  Perhaps that is why there is slight uptick for student-veterans when it comes to retention rates and graduation rates.  Perhaps the state chancellor’s office would do well to look at those student-veteran numbers and take heed when going over the Student Support and Success Plan, and the Equity Plan.  What is the veteran’s support and success plan?  Support each other, succeed together. Didn’t cost the state a dime!  What is the veteran’s equity plan?  That’s easy.  You ARE my brother, you ARE my sister.  Equity.

While it is all the rage in academia to criticize America, which is easy to do in an air conditioned office, without the responsibilities of an elected official, while it is easy to wear a shirt with the quote, “It’s better to die on your feet to live on your knees,” while it’s easy to be condescending and “feel sorry” for veterans, as if they were suckered into something, it’s harder to take the oath and pick up a weapon.  Don’t feel sorry for them, they don’t.  In this age of celebrated victimhood, they handle business.  They got dirty so others could stay clean, but sometimes that dirt doesn’t come off so easily.  Therefore, be patient towards one another, and get clean together.

Veterans throughout time have been a tight knit group for one major reason.  They seem to be the only ones who understand each other, whether combat vets or not.  They know FUBAR and “hurry up and wait,” they know scary drill instructors, and they know the anxiety of the first combat and the sweetness of returning home.  They know that America is not perfect but have defended it, imperfections and all, if only in order to get her one step closer to our Founding Fathers’ ideals of perfection.  Alexis deTocqueville once wrote that “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to good, she will also cease to great.”  With student veterans here and across the country, I am confident that we will continue to be great.  In a few short years, these student veterans will be junior executives, small business owners, high school teachers, and nurses.  In a few short decades, or sooner, they will be CEOs, scientists, college professors, and politicians.  How will they have accomplished this?  Loving families, good professors, and a military experience that made them realize they can be more than they ever thought possible, not to mention fellow veterans at the Veterans Club helping each other when no else seems to know why they can’t concentrate in class or why their temper might get the best of them at times.  They can do the work.  To paraphrase Jim Collins in Good to Great, you can teach farmers how to make steel but you cannot teach a “farmer work ethic” to those who do not possess it.  These men and women possess the ethic; all they need are the tools and the training.  Bakersfield College offers that.  Can BC do more?  Of course.  Will we?  Definitely!

I don’t want to get academic today, as if this were a dissertation or thesis.  So, there are just a few people I would like to thank.  Quite often the ones left behind are neglected when in fact they at times have it harder than those in the field.  They are the ones that have to deal with issues that most other Americans don’t.  So, I thank the ones left behind. I thank you for having to be a single parent while your loved one is overseas, thank you for being stressed at work with worry, thank you watching CNN late at night hoping to see a glimpse of your loved one, thank you being heart sick every time a minister showed up at your door, thank you for failing a math test because you stayed up late waiting for your spouse to skype you from Iraq, thank you for getting that Western Union telegram in 1944, thank you for your child having learning difficulties because of separation anxiety, thank you for sleepless nights because of his nightmares after he returned, thank you grandparents for suddenly become parents again because your child got deployed and left her child with you, thank you for crying when the mailman didn’t have a letter for you today, thank you for all those painful goodbyes at air terminals, train stations and bus stations. Thank you for receiving that folded flag draped over the casket so that others don’t have to.

To the veterans.  Many are familiar with this quote: “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night because rough men {and women} stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  So, Dr. Collins, so Dr. Rosales, so Professor Mendoza, so Professor Torres, so Mr. Serrano, so BC faculty and staff veterans, so BC student-veterans, thank you for doing violence on their behalf.  Thank you for leaving you kids for months at a time, thank you for taking that rocket propelled grenade, losing both your legs, thank you for crying in your bunk at night when you were 17 years old because you missed your mom, thank you for charging a German machine gun nest across 100 yards of open ground only to spend 11 months in a hospital bed, thank you for working the flight line at 0300, thank you for having nightmares since Nam,  thank you for enduring the injustice of a Jim Crow military, thank you for becoming an alcoholic to cope with your PTSD, thank you for reading a “Dear John” letter at boot camp, thank you for being cooped up in a submarine for 3 months without seeing the sun, thank you for being called a baby killer, thank you for having difficulty concentrating in English B1A because of Traumatic Brain Injury, thank you for cradling your dying buddy’s head in your lap while stroking his hair as a lover would.  For those of you who never came home, thank you for forever lying silent under row upon row of crosses and Stars of David so that others don’t have to.  I salute you.  Thank you.  God Bless Bakersfield College and God Bless America.

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4 thoughts on “Student Veterans and BC’s 2nd annual Vet Fest

  1. Andy November 11, 2014 at 10:30 am Reply

    The speech provided above should be forwarded to every Veteran and every Veteran’s family we know. Dean Beckworth says thank you in such an eloquent, sincere and candid way.
    As a country we owe our Veterans much. We owe their families much. Send this as a thank you to those your close to and to those you’re not.

  2. drajcpepper November 12, 2014 at 7:48 am Reply

    As I stood in the background in front of the SS building listening to each of the speakers I looked across the open quad area and reminded myself why it is that we in the USA should feel safe each evening we fall asleep; because someone has been and is on the wall of our country watching over us. Thank you VETs for all that you have done to keep us safe. My prayers are with you. ~ Dr. Culpepper

  3. Margaret Head November 12, 2014 at 9:13 am Reply

    Well said Dean Beckworth! We have a proud heritage as free Americans. Veterans, we salute you.

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