Celebrating Those Who Served in the U.S. Military

Photo by William Atkins.

November 12, 2014

Under a clear blue sky Tuesday morning, members of the George Washington University community gathered to honor its veteran and military population in celebration of Veterans Day.

“We’re grateful for many things here at GW, but certainly [for] the large number of student veterans who add to our community’s richness,” said Provost Steven Lerman, speaking to the crowd in the university’s Veterans Park. Many of the listeners were themselves veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

“Right now, there are well over a thousand veterans and their families studying at GW in virtually every department we have, which is an enormous source of pride for us,” Dr. Lerman continued. “We are thankful not just for the way they serve our country, but for all the ways they add value and richness to our community. In that sense they serve us twice.”

Dr. Lerman’s remarks were part of a ceremony that included the presentation of the colors by the ROTC color guard, a musical performance by the VALOR Chorus—a choir named in honor of the university’s Veterans Accelerate Learning Opportunities and Rewards program (GW VALOR)—and a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of those who served.

Emanuel Johnson, president of GW Veterans, spoke briefly of the promises made to U.S. soldiers, one of which, he said, was that upon a soldier’s return from deployment, “we would be able to afford a quality education.”

“Institutions like GW have stepped up to play their part in ensuring that the promise this country made to its veterans is kept,” he said, citing as an example GW’s commitment to the Department of Education’s 8 Keys To Veterans’ Success.

Veterans Park, where the ceremony was held, was dedicated last year with funding from GW trustee Mark Shenkman, M.B.A. ’67. Vice Admiral (retired) Mel Williams Jr., associate provost for military and veterans affairs, said it would be the site of two commemorative celebrations yearly, the other being a wreath laying on Memorial Day.

“In November, we will celebrate and honor,” he said. “In May, we will remember and honor.”

The park is located in front of the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library entrance at Kogod Plaza. The centrality of that location, Dr. Lerman said, is “emblematic” of the university’s strong commitment to veterans.

Adm. Williams agreed, adding that this week’s selection of GW for the Military Times “Best for Vets 2015” rankings was equally telling. GW, he said, is one of only nine educational institutions in the U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 to make both that and GI Jobs’ “Military Friendly” list.

“This university has invested in the education of our military members,” he said, “and the military members choose GW because it’s a quality education.”

After the ceremony, dozens of volunteers gathered in the Marvin Center’s Grand Ballroom to make personalized care packages for sailors on the U.S.S. George Washington.

“As someone who’s thinking about the military as a career, it’s really heartwarming to see all these people here, taking time to think about those who are serving,” said David Little, a freshman in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Army ROTC.

Rebecca Segal, also a CCAS freshman and ROTC member, agreed. “This is definitely the most meaningful Veterans Day I’ve ever been a part of,” she said.