GW honors military-affiliated students at Veterans Day service

Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014 1:23 p.m.
by Jacqueline Thomsen

Student Association President Nick Gumas, Provost Steven Lerman, Associate Provost for Military and Veterans Affairs Mel Williams and GW Veterans President Emanuel Johnson place a wreath in front of the wall of Veterans Memorial Park. Nicole Radivilov | Assistant Photo Editor

More than 100 student veterans, NROTC students and their friends and families gathered with GW officials at Veterans Memorial Park in Kogan Plaza on Tuesday morning to celebrate Veterans Day.

The wreath-laying ceremony honored the large military student population at GW and highlighted the programs the University offers to veterans.

Here are some takeaways from the event:

Keys to success
Emanuel Johnson, the president of the student organization GW Veterans, said the University is leading the way in providing services to military-affiliated veterans.

He said when he heard about the federal government’s new strategies for helping veterans, he knew GW already offered most of the programs. He said he could count on the University when other institutions let him and other veterans down.

“As we all know, our government doesn’t always get things right the first time up,” he said. “But the beauty of being an American is that they don’t always have to because institutions like GW have stepped up to play their part, ensuring the promise this country made to its veterans is kept.”

“They serve us twice.”
Provost Steven Lerman said it was crucial for non-military students to meet some of the more than 1,300 military affiliated students on campus because they have unique experiences to share.

“It is important that our classrooms include people who have served in the military, that the students who have not had that experience – undergraduate and graduate students – get an opportunity to interact with people whose life experiences are very different,” he said. “In that sense, they serve us twice.”

Lerman said a veteran’s opportunity to complete his or her education was an important part of the transition from military to civilian life.

“GW has always reached out to veterans to help them achieve a high-quality education, help them with financial benefits and served as a way to transition, for many of them, from military life to civilian life, to prepare them for civilian careers,” he said.

GW’s military-affiliated population
Retired Vice Adm. Mel Williams, the University’s associate provost for military and veterans affairs, said the number of veterans in the U.S. will shrink by a third over the next 30 years as older veterans pass away and fewer people decide to enlist.

Still, the number of veterans looking to earn a degree is growing today as members of the military end tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said the University’s programs, including online courses, GW VALOR and help from the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services, were central to maintaining a strong veteran presence on campus.

“It’s a privilege for an older veteran like me to join the ranks of the 1,500 student veterans here at GW,” Williams said.

A military medley
The morning event featured a presentation of the colors by the GW Navy ROTC Color Guard and performances by the GW VALOR Chorus, made up of military affiliated students, faculty and staff.

After Student Association President Nick Gumas, Lerman, Johnson and Williams carried a wreath and placed it in front of the memorial, the chorus sang a medley of the anthems for each branch of the military. Veterans stood and were recognized as the chorus group their branch’s song.