Student Veteran Society honors comrades


Kaitlin Hetterscheidt

Samuel Cox speaks about his time in the Marine Corps at Columbia’s Student Veterans Society’s second annual Veterans Day event Nov. 11 at The Conaway Center in the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building.

By Assistant Campus Editor

The Student Veterans Society hosted its second annual Veterans Day celebration Nov. 11 in honor of Columbia’s student veterans and veteran staff and faculty at the Conaway Center in the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building.

Students and staff at the college attended the event to hear student veterans speak about their time in the armed forces and the importance of returning to college after serving. President Kwang-Wu Kim opened the event with a brief speech emphasizing the importance of student veterans’ roles within the college community. 

“All of us have our own tendencies to pre-categorize what we mean by diversity,” Kim said. “Usually, we think about diversity with obvious characteristics like racial or ethnic heritage, but I realize one of the really interesting conversations about diversity at this institution is our veterans population. It’s to our great advantage as a community that we are able to recruit and retain and help veterans succeed at Columbia.”

Thomas Day, senior advisor at 1871’s The Bunker, a program targeted at aspiring veteran entrepreneurs, took the podium after Kim.

“I want to stress that it is extremely important that [our] stories are told,” Day said. “[The Bunker] provides the support for every veteran as he or she transitions [back to society].”

Day said the Student Veterans Society opened the Student Veteran Center, a place for the group to meet, on the second floor in the 600 S. Michigan Ave. Building on the day of the event. The organization had been working to open the center for months and was excited to provide a place for student veterans to meet and share their stories on campus, he said.

Samuel Cox, a freshman audio arts & acoustics major, also spoke at the event and shared his experience transitioning from the Marine Corps back to civilian life in Chicago.

“[It’s important to celebrate Veterans Day] on a college campus because my peers at this school are the age I was while in the military,” Cox said. “My friends [from home] were going through college being like, ‘Man, this test is so hard,’ and it does get stressful, but for me it was like, ‘I hope I don’t lose my legs today,’ or ‘I just cannot wait to get out of here. It’s too hot.’ It was a lot of things you wouldn’t think someone that age would be concerned about.”

Cox said he wants the student body to know the importance of being recognized as a veteran in a campus community.

“We’re not here to shove [being a veteran] down people’s throats,” Cox said. “It’s not like, ‘We’re veterans and you need to understand what we went through,’ especially at a college that is extremely liberal with less attention to the military. We just want to let Columbia know that these freedoms are enjoyed because [veterans] had the fortitude to do their part for the military.”

Cox said the only major difference between a student veteran and a typical college student is age and life experience.

“Just because we’re [student] veterans doesn’t mean we’re crazy,” Cox said. “We’re artists at heart and we create, too.”

Other students, including Shawn Riley, a senior marketing communications major and public relations spokesman for the Student Veterans Society, and Brian Ngo, a junior advertising & public relations major and president of the Student Veterans Society, shared personal stories and sentiments from their time in the military.

Ngo set up a slide show alongside the podium to present photos of himself before, during and after his time in the service. This was intended to dispel misconceptions of the singularity of the story of students who served in the military, Ngo said.

Angel Melendez, a senior audio arts & acoustics major, said his goal for the Student Veterans Society is to raise awareness of veterans’ presence on campus.

“We walk amongst students at Columbia and nobody knows [we’re veterans],” Melendez said. “I’m very proud to have served this country, and I think it’s an important day to embrace that and just let everyone know we’re just like you. We want to share this together and we want you to know we’re here.”