November 12, 2015
The George Washington University marked Veterans Day Wednesday with a traditional wreath-laying ceremony in honor of military veterans.
“Today we have the opportunity to take a strategic pause to honor those who have served our great nation as veterans,” said Vice Admiral (Ret.) Mel Williams, associate provost for veterans and military affairs, before a crowd of students, faculty and staff—including many combat veterans from all branches of the armed services—in Veterans Memorial Park on Kogan Plaza.
He thanked GW for its institutional commitment to its veteran and military population. The university has a long history of involvement with veterans’ issues: Don Balfour, B.A. ’45, was the first recipient of the G.I. Bill in the United States. GW VALOR, the initiative coordinating the several university offices that help military members, veterans and their families find success at GW, now serves more than 1,500 students.
The school also this week received three external honors for its work with the veteran and military communities, being named to the 2016 Military Friendly schools list and as one of Military Times’ Best for Vetsas well as receiving a Vetty Award from Mission Complete.
“GW is setting the pace nationally for those who serve and support the military and veteran community,” Adm. Williams said.
Yannick Baptiste, president of GW Vets, also provided remarks, as did Barbara Porter, chief of staff in the office of George Washington President Steven Knapp.
Mr. Baptiste shared a brief history of Veterans Day and reminded the audience of GW’s military history, noting that its namesake was commander of the Continental Army and that nearby buildings were used as barracks and hospitals during the Civil War.
“Today’s wreath-laying ceremony recognizes all veterans and highlights GW’s commitment to them, past and present,” Mr. Baptiste said.
Ms. Porter, whose grandfather, father and son are all veterans, remembered the contributions of individual veterans to the GW community. She encouraged veterans to find their educational passion and to reach out to the community for help.
“At GW, we may be a veteran-friendly school, and we may be able to remove barriers to make you more successful,” she told veterans in the audience. “But what happens next is up to you…When it’s your turn, I believe you will have given back to your country, you will have given back to your school, and you will lead those coming behind you.”
Mr. Baptiste, Ms. Porter, Adm. Williams and student body president Andie Dowd laid the wreath together in front of the wall displaying the insignia for all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.