KINGSTON, R.I. – November 7, 2019 – Veterans, current service members and civilian members of the University of Rhode Island community joined this week in honor of Armistice Day and the sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. The event was held in advance of the 101st anniversary of the initial armistice that called an end to the hostilities of World War I.
Hosted by the URI Student Veterans Organization, together with the URI Office of Veteran Affairs and Military Programs, the celebration featured remarks from Rhode Island National Guard Adj. Gen. Christopher P. Callahan; VFW State Cmdr. Michael Carter; Donald H. DeHayes, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Marland Chang, ’22, president of the URI Student Veterans Organization. It also included a presenting of the colors by the URI Reserve Officer Training Corps and music from the Newport Navy Band.
Rachael Garcia, the University’s assistant director of veteran affairs and military programs, opened the celebration by welcoming speakers, participants and attendees and noting the number of veterans on campus and thanking the University for its support. “You may not notice because they often tend to blend into the background or don’t look like what you would ‘think’ a veteran to look like, but we have a lot of veterans on campus,” said Garcia. “As an employee, a veteran and an alum, I appreciate the backing this institution is providing for our service members, our veterans, our ROTC and all those connected with them.”
This was the second annual Armistice Day observance held jointly by the two organizations. Last year’s observance, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, was held in the Memorial Union. Garcia noted the reason for using the term Armistice Day as opposed to Veterans Day is, in part, to encourage conversation and connect others with military history and culture.
“This day continues to be a day of reflection. A day when all Americans should take the time to consider the legacy of freedom and liberty that has been passed on to us. It is a day to think about the awesome responsibility that is ours and what it takes to maintain this land of the free, this home of the brave,” said Cmdr. Carter. “Every generation of Americans owes a debt of gratitude to these brave patriots and we want to do everything we can to make sure the men and women who serve in today and tomorrow’s military receive what they need to accomplish their mission of safeguarding America’s interests.”
According to the URI Office of Veteran Affairs and Military Programs there are more than 200 military veterans or active military enrolled on campus, with approximately 150 military dependents. Those numbers have been steadily growing in recent years, as has membership in the Student Veterans Organization.
Chang spoke directly to student veterans. “This is hard. You have taken on a challenge that is different from when you were in the service and you have different roles now. There are textbooks and readings and tests and exams and you are trying to balance your life and make it all work,” he said. “But more than just a degree at the end of all this, you continue to build on your skills, your knowledge and your relationships while you are here – and, you are not alone. There is a brotherhood and a sisterhood on this campus – the Student Veterans Organization – that is here to support you.”
The Student Veterans Organization, as well as the University’s Office of Veteran Affairs and Military Programs, advocate for veterans on campus, support them as students and help bridge the gap between those who serve or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who have not. Membership in the Student Veterans Organization has grown to about 85 members and includes not only veterans but dependents, spouses, ROTC cadets, active service members, National Guardsmen, and civilian allies. Open in the Memorial Union, Room 317, the Student Veterans Organization is staffed weekdays as well as some weekends by student veterans and supporters.
Adj. Gen. Callahan noted the important role that family members, educators and the community play in supporting and helping to shape members of the armed services. “Of all of our branches of service, each one of them would not be as strong without the service of families, the service of guardians, the service of educators, the service of medical personnel, and the people who help us take young men and women currently in service and shape them into whatever warrior they have chosen to become. It is just simply not something that happens overnight,” he said. “It is the service of everyone in support of our veterans and our first responders, who make that clay that we call a warrior or a police officer or firefighter. It just doesn’t happen without what you do.”
DeHayes echoed the sentiments of many of the day’s speakers when he stated, “I hope we can begin to think about Veterans Day, not as a single day during the year when we pause to remember to honor the courage of our comrades. But as we move forward, I hope we think of Veterans Day as the first day of an everyday commitment to ensure that we are serving the needs of our veterans on this campus, throughout Rhode Island and across the nation.”
In addition to the ceremony on the Quad, the organizations also hosted a special screening of the Peter Jackson-directed WWI documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old,” as well as a historical timeline of the University’s military heritage in Swan Hall.
For more information on the URI Student Veterans Organization, follow them on Facebook @URIVets, on twitter at @URISVO, or contact them by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.