In celebration of Veterans Day, Military Student Affairs hosted an emotional ceremony to honor those who have served, with a special emphasis placed on veterans on campus.
The ceremony took place in the Curtiss Hall Banquet Rooms on Thursday, Nov. 9. Pictures of student and staff veterans were projected on the screen in the banquet room, making for an engaging display that connected the veterans to one another.
Sidney Childs, associate provost for Student Affairs and the dean of students, opened the event with a personal speech, followed by the Army National Guard 1st battalion, 125th infantry regiment, performing the color guard. SVSU’s Encore sang the national anthem during the color guard, making for a touching opening ceremony for attendees.
“It was nice to see the support from all across campus,” said Director of Military Student Affairs Bethany Alford. “You can see everyone was full of their Cardinal and military pride at the same time, which was really special.”
President Donald Bachand spoke on familial connections to Veterans Day and the importance of recognizing veterans’ contributions in war and on campus.
“On behalf of the SVSU community, I offer my deepest gratitude to those who have served in the armed forces,” Bachand said in his speech. “We don’t serve veterans to earn awards or recognition at this university, we do it because it is the right thing to do.”
Douglas Szczepanski, a Purple Heart recipient and SVSU alumnus, was the keynote speaker at the event. A Bay City native, Szczepanski is both a minister and public speaker. He founded the non-profit Miracle Soldier Inc. following his return from service.
A suicide bomber in Baghdad, Iraq, injured Szczepanski in 2005. He spoke on his three pillars of resiliency: faith, family and fortitude. Following the speech, pictures were shown from his deployment, adding an element of reality that those on the frontlines experience.
“The three pillars of resiliency helped me to get through trials in life,” Szczepanski said in his speech. “Being resilient is not something that happens one time. Each day you can grow stronger and overcome and endure any trial that comes your way.”
Lindsey Mead, the winner of the Veterans Day essay contest out of 70 applications, read her essay to the crowd.
“Lindsey’s words were so meaningful that there were people with tears in their eyes,” Alford said. “Hearing somebody who wasn’t a veteran, but spoke on the meaning of Veterans Day to them, was extremely impactful.”
Conrad Dowe, a student veteran who suffered injuries in battle, closed out the event with a personal speech based off the timeline of his life experiences throughout his service and as a student. Dowe talked in depth on his experiences during deployment and the hardships he faced as wounded veteran.
“It is really important to get the message out that veterans need our support here on campus,” Alford said. “Having Cardinal Military Association and Military Student Affairs work together to help make veterans’ adjustment as easy as possible is our ultimate goal.”
After Alford closed out the event, there was a cake cutting ceremony and conversation with everyone who attended. Flags to commemorate veterans or to simply give thanks were filled out as attendees were departing.
Military Student Affairs staff were thankful for support from administration, the Conference Center’s donations and the Writing Center’s collaboration on the student essay contest.