CBU hosted a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 10 during Parent and Family Weekend to honor all who served and their loved ones. The event was jointly hosted by University Advancement, the Office of Student Success and the Veterans Resource Center. It featured a reception, a cake cutting to celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday, and several speakers including Dr. Juliann Perdue, a veteran and professor of nursing at CBU.
“This event was for our student veterans and military dependents attending CBU,” said Jay Villasenor, director of the Veterans Resource Center. “We thought, ‘Why can’t we bring in and recognize the parents and families that visit their children that attend CBU?’ So we partnered with University Advancement to create this event. It is for recognizing their service and giving them a little bit of time to relax.”
The event drew a crowd of veterans and their families and friends who came to support them. Several student veterans attended as well and shared their experiences in the military.
“I was a marine,” said Randy Gonzales, sophomore photography major. “I joined October 19, 2008, and served until October 2012. I was infantry and deployed twice in Afghanistan. The reason I joined was because I always wanted to serve.”
Dylan Vanderkallen, sophomore electrical and computer engineering major, also shared his story.
“I served for four years doing communications for the army. I was a 25N Nodal Network Systems Operator-Maintainer, which is basically satellite communications. We were able to set up computer networks anywhere in the world, whether it was a hotel room or in the middle of a desert. At first, it was hard to transition back to being a civilian again due to the differences in structure. But I would say that it was definitely for the better because now it’s helping me with my school. I also have some lifelong friends around the world now,” Vanderkallen said.
Toward the end of the event, the armed forces medley was played to honor and recognize each branch of the US military.
“I liked the event. It made me smile at the end, hearing all the different songs, because it brought back memories. Hearing the army song again was nice,” Vanderkallen said.
The Veterans Resource Center offers many resources for student veterans, such as hosting events to build camaraderie and providing VA benefits workshops.
“We do offer a lot of resources for our student veterans,” Villasenor explained. “We help ease their transition coming back from active duty to civilian life, and more specifically, going into higher education. We give them a lot of resources such as academic advisers to make sure that they can get in touch with them and receive the lineup of classes they need to take. We also have the Veterans Resource Center, which is a place for them to relax in between classes. It has two study rooms and a computer lab that they can use to print their homework. It is available for them from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.”
The Veterans Resource Center’s efforts do not go unnoticed by students.
“I definitely feel welcomed here as a veteran,” Vanderkallen explained. “The Veterans Resource Center and Jay [Villasenor] really help out a lot. If I have any questions I can just go over there and ask and they are more than willing to help.”
Randy Gonzales said that CBU has created a safe environment for him.
“I do feel welcomed and supported here at CBU. I’ve loved it since I got here, and it makes me feel comfortable,” Gonzales said. “Everybody is so nice, and I could drop my guard down, which is something that is usually really hard for me to do. And I feel like it’s been getting better every year. The veteran center just got even bigger, so it makes me feel that we’re more appreciated. It is growing and giving us more access to stuff, so personally, I am happy.”
Villasenor explained that he and the rest of the veteran’s center strive to exhibit these qualities.
“CBU has opened the door for our veterans. It is all about welcoming our veterans and aiding in their transition, which can be very hard for them,” Villasenor said. “But we know that if they can take care of themselves on a battlefield, they can take care of themselves in a higher education institution.”
Vanderkallen expressed his thanks to all veterans.
“For everyone out there who served,”he said, “happy Veteran’s Day.”