America supports its troops, and so does Saint Leo. The Office of Military Affairs and Services hosted a Military Recognition Event on Nov. 4 on the University campus from 11 AM to 2 PM. The event revolved around recognizing and giving appreciation to current service men and women and veterans and helped to bring awareness to the programs available to retired service men and women.
There were several booths spread out on the field, including the Florida National Guard, CareerSource, which provided information about the Student ROTC program at the University, and a booth on Social Work. There was also a truck from the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, or FDVA. In addition to the informative booths, there was also a tent stocked with refreshments for attendees. This event is one of several geared towards the celebration of Veterans, all leading up to Veterans’ Day on Nov. 11.
CareerSource is a disabled veterans outreach program located in Dade City that helps to provide jobs and rehabilitation for disabled veterans. Julie Hayes, a disabled veterans outreach program specialist and a United States Navy veteran herself, was invited to represent this program and to speak about the event’s importance. She explained that it is always important to recognize both current service men and women and veterans, particularly disabled veterans. Hayes also spoke about her experience serving in the United States Navy for four and a half years.
“I enjoyed it actually. You might hear different opinions from others, but I enjoyed it. I got a well-rounded experience in the service. I got to see a little bit of everything, just not the world,” Hayes said.
She also spoke briefly about the differences between women and men’s service in the time she served to now. She expressed that in the time that she served from 1992 to 1996, women were just being transferred into combat roles.
“I am sure in the 20 years since I have been out they’ve made that transition a little bit better. I don’t think there are as many difficulties as there were now,” added Hayes.
The Social Work program also had a booth at the event. Dr. Veronika Ospina-Kammerer, associate professor of social work at the University, discussed the importance of therapy for veterans, being involved in social community activities, and walking meditation. She reminded guests about the rock garden located on the campus, which was created and put in by the social work program for the purpose of meditation. She expressed that this meditative exercise may not only be beneficial to veterans but to students and faculty as well.
John Morgan, president of the student veterans association and a veteran of 23 years, discussed his experience and service in the military and the importance of the event. Morgan is a retired United States Army veteran who has served in Iraq twice, as well as in Bosnia. His experience was both rewarding and challenging, and it was an honor and privilege to serve his country.
“Even though this country is not perfect, out of all of the places I have been, this is the best country in the world,” said Morgan.
Morgan commended Saint Leo for being such a military-friendly campus and for hosting events such as these that honor military veterans. Veterans programs are helpful to those who struggle with socialization issues, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it is important for those veterans to be part of a safe community. Morgan has also become a mentor to many in Saint Leo’s ROTC program.
“It is the honor and the brotherhood that’s important. We will always have that brotherhood, whether it is the Army, the Navy, or Marine Corps, we all took the same oath,” said Morgan.
Members of the Florida National Guard and other military service programs were able to provide prospective enlistees with information on the program of their choice. The event was not overly filled but progressed successfully. Similar events honoring current troops and veterans will be taking place on campus as Veteran’s Day approaches.