U.S. armed forces veterans made the conscious decision to step up and serve their nation. And as the nation pauses today to honor Veterans Day, I think it’s important to not only thank veterans for their service, but to thank them for making the decision to do so in the first place. Since we did away with the draft more than 40 years ago, the decision to join the military has been a complex one and a responsibility that no one takes lightly. It’s a choice born of courage that so many of us couldn’t or wouldn’t make.
Soldiers of all branches obliged to honor our country with their service. At BC, we feel a strong sense of obligation and responsibility to serve them with equal vigor when they transition into higher education. We know they’re entering into a new stage in their lives, one that, in its own way, can occasionally seem as confusing and frightening as military service.
To show our ongoing support to military veterans and their families, BC hosted our 3rd annual — and best yet! — BC Vet Fest last week on the Student Services lawn.
The event, put on by the BC Veterans Club, seeks to help our student veterans in the best way we know how – with valuable resources, aid services and sage counsel to make their post-military and Bakersfield College experiences as rewarding as possible.
Organizations were on hand in force to make vets aware of how they could help, everyone from the Employment Development Department, CalVet, the Bakersfield Veterans Center, the Wounded Heroes Fund and BC’s own financial aid and EOP&S personnel.
As Dean of Student Success & Development Paul Beckworth put it, it’s all about respect for a veteran’s time in our nation’s service.
“You’ve earned that…this is hard-earned,” Paul told the 200+ attendees at Vet Fest’s opening ceremony.
We were so pleased to have KCCD Board of Trustees member Kay Meek address the crowd, not only because she’s a friend of BC, but because her family has an amazing history of U.S. military service that frankly deserves special recognition of its own.
Kay’s dad served in the Navy during World War II, while her uncle was one of the U.S. soldiers who helped liberate Iwo Jima ahead of that immortal flag-raising in February 1945. Her brother was an Army vet from the Vietnam era. Her 22-year-old nephew is currently in the Navy. And her grandson and former Renegade Jordan Turner is now a Marine stationed in Norfolk, Va.
Despite all her family’s already given, Kay was here to give a little bit more, presenting the Veterans Club with an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol building. The flag, which was originally given to her father, will soon be displayed in the BC Veterans Lounge, serving as inspiration and a lasting tribute to her dad, who passed away five years ago.
“I’m so proud of all the veterans here today. You’re the people who make our world strong. You’re the people who keep our world safe,” Kay said. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for this country.”
BC’s new Veterans Education Advisor Armando Trujillo spoke from the heart, recounted his own difficult story of readjustment to civilian life following his time serving in Iraq in 2003.
Eyes welling with tears, an emotional Armando described how a Bakersfield Veterans Center counselor guided him toward a future after the military, eventually leading Armando to graduate from CSUB, get a Masters at USC and begin a life reaching out to former soldiers to help make the kind of impact in their lives that his counselor had in his.
“I stand as testament to all you veterans assembled here…don’t stop striving. BC is one step on the route,” Armando said.
It was a beautiful ceremony…and with only three years under our belts, Vet Fest as well as BC’s veterans outreach efforts are only destined to grow, as BC’s VP of Student Affairs Zav Dadabhoy so eloquently put it.
“You’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg. We’re just getting started.”
BC’s Veteran’s Day ceremonies continued during last Saturday’s BC Renegade football game. Obviously, honoring America’s heroes helped spur Coach Chudy’s squad as the Renegades put on a spirited display in a rousing 51-7 trouncing of Pasadena.
Today, cap this amazing week with a moment of reflection on what the men and women of America’s armed services have meant and continue to mean to this country. And if you can, maybe give a veteran you know a thank you for their service. It’s the least any of us can do for those who chose to stand up for all of us.
I thought you would like to see Paul Beckworth’s 2015 Veterans Day message.
“We don’t fight to hold ground. We fight to win.” This was said by a Navy SEAL as he reflected on his numerous combat engagements in the current conflicts overseas. As I look back on another Veterans Day at BC, I think about what we have come from. I look back with pride at 102 years of Bakersfield College history and how BC alumni have fought in every conflict since World War I. I laugh when I read about World War II veterans coming to BC in the late 1940s when it still on the BHS campus, and the high school administrators’ anxiety about the smoking, and bad language the student-veterans used on campus. I am proud that those vets were called “DARS,” by administrators, which stood for Damned Average Raisers, because they did so well in class that they skewered all the grading curves. The tide of student-veteran involvement has ebbed and flowed over the decades. It was very active in the years after the Vietnam War, with the Veterans Club“running the campus,” as the late Vernon Valenzuela remembered. I saw it resurrect in 2010 thanks to the OIF/OEF veterans agitating for a veteran space. Not only has the club resurrected, it has thrived. Now, BC has a new Veterans Education Advisor, a new veterans’ student development class, plans for a larger space for the veterans lounge, and a college president who values what you bring to the table.
After your years of service it is now your time, as Bakersfield College student-veterans, to move forward. You have a great responsibility. You have a great responsibility to you; A responsibility to use your military experience to better yourself, your family and your community. You have a responsibility to get educated, and pursue your goals in a timely, productive manner. It is indeed frustrating at times. It isn’t easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But, you aren’t everyone. You are the real 1%. Only 1% ever served in the military. If you are part of that elite percentage, then college is simply another challenge to overcome before the next challenge. The fact that you are at Bakersfield College says this about you: You don’t fight to hold ground. You fight to win.
From the bottom of my heart, I am proud of all of you winners.
Thank you for your service. Happy Veterans Day. Job Well Done!