Giving Thanks to Veterans

GW serves Thanksgiving luncheon for local veterans

November 22, 2010
By Jennifer Eder

More than a hundred veterans gathered at the George Washington University Monday for a Thanksgiving luncheon.

GW students and staff members served meals in the Marvin Center to veterans from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Vinson Hall Retirement Community and Fort Belvoir.

The Thanksgiving menu included green beans, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, turkey, pumpkin cheesecake and apple cider.

“This is one of the many ways GW supports and honors veterans,” said Shannon Donahue, freshmen service and alternative breaks coordinator in GW’s Office of Community Service. “We wanted to provide a Thanksgiving meal to those who couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving this year or might not have anyone else to spend it with

Ninety-three-year-old John Budzik was one of a handful of veterans from Vinson Hall. Mr. Budzik served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

“It means a lot to have a Thanksgiving meal,” says Mr. Budzik, who was stationed at Honolulu Harbor when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

In September, GW students volunteered their time at Vinson Hall as part of the university’s Freshman Day of Service.

Ryan Bos, president of GW Vets, said he loved having the opportunity to honor fellow veterans with a special Thanksgiving luncheon.

“A lot of these guys aren’t going to be with their families for Thanksgiving so I know they appreciate this a lot,” said Mr. Bos, who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2007 with the 101st Airborne and the 1st Armored Division.

Mr. Bos is one of many GW student veterans participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is part of the GI Bill that was passed after September 11.

GW is one of the leading participants in the program, which provides returning veterans with enhanced access to private colleges and universities. Veterans who qualify at GW receive about a 71 percent discount on full-time graduate tuition and a free undergraduate education. For the current school year, GW has budgeted up to $2.8 million for the program, which will be matched by the VA. Last year, more than 160 GW student veterans participated in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Fred Cummings, who is serving in the Navy Ceremonial Guard, said he enjoyed the salad with walnuts and dried cranberries the best. Mr. Cummings, 25 of Virginia Beach, Va., cannot go home for Thanksgiving because is on duty.

“It’s been great to talk to some of the retired vets here today,” he said.

Eugene Bishop, a Vietnam War veteran, said the entire meal was wonderful.

“It means a whole lot to me that people still remember the veterans that served in Vietnam,” said Mr. Bishop, who served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1970.

About 40 GW students volunteered at Monday’s luncheon.

Kelsey O’Boyle, a senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs, said she appreciated the opportunity to serve and eat lunch with so many veterans.

“We all have to realize that we’re so privileged at GW. We’re in this Foggy Bottom bubble,” says Ms. O’Boyle. “We need to give back to the community.”

Service has been an integral part of Ms. O’Boyle’s GW experience. As a freshman, she went on an alternative spring break trip to New Orleans. Since then, she’s led a trip every year.

“I literally don’t think I’d have the same experience at GW if I hadn’t been involved with service,” says Ms. O’Boyle. “That’s how I met all of my friends, and it’s been such a big part of my life the past few years.”