Veterans Day at Embry-Riddle: Hear from the Student Veterans on Campus

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By Taylor Brown, Editor In Chief

Image Credit: Student Veterans Organization for Horizons

Friday, Nov. 11, 2022 marked Veterans Day, a national holiday aimed to remember and support past and current veterans. Veterans make up roughly 20 percent of Embry-Riddle’s student population, and many ROTC students will commission post-graduation.

“Veterans Day is a means to acknowledge those who have served and are a part of our community. They give guidance to future generations of soldiers and service members and what it means to uphold military tradition and honor,” stated Damian Keefe, a senior at Embry-Riddle and a Specialist in the Army Reserve as a medic.

Viviana Mann joined the military halfway through her time at Embry-Riddle, so although she is not a veteran, she is involved with the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) and is dedicated to supporting student veterans on and off campus. To commemorate this year’s Veterans Day, Mann attended the New York Veterans Day Parade.

“Veterans Day is so much more than just honoring service members; it’s to remember and honor all the past and present veterans,” Mann stated.

Student veteran Vincent Becerra is a senior in aerospace engineering and served in the Air Force prior to his time at Embry-Riddle. Becerra finds that many student veterans face unique struggles in higher education.

“For most student veterans, we spent about 4 to 6 years at the minimum out of school or even longer. So being thrown back into academics with students fresh from high school and watching other students excel can be intimidating at times,” Becerra expressed, “Traditional students are typically worried about assignments or grades; however, when I was 19, I was getting deployed to Africa to work with the Kenyan Navy.”

Additionally, Keefe told Horizons about this difficult transition many veterans face when entering higher education after serving: “I think for those that are integrating from active duty to civilian life can be challenging for some. Also, those who are used to the military way of life can have a culture shock when coming to a campus that is not military led.”

To support student veterans at Embry-Riddle, Keefe, Mann, and Becerra highly stress the importance of the SVO. The SVO hosts a number of events on campus, including Remember Everyone Deployed (R.E.D) Friday barbecues. Every other Friday, students can purchase burgers, sodas, and chips to support the SVO and meet some of the student veterans on campus.

“We always love seeing that long line of students waiting for our hamburgers and brats, even under cold conditions,” Becerra expressed.

In the future, the SVO hopes to organize more barbecue tailgates, a public 5K race, and ultimately expand the organization’s reach and engagement. They offer tutoring services, guidance, and a safe space for those re-entering the civilian world.

The SVO and Becerra have also taken the initiative to better student veteran life on campus through programs and initiatives.

“I’m currently working on a housing program that helps incoming non-traditional students find housing and in the works of possibly creating a UNIV 101 section specific to veterans as our needs are different than that of a traditional student,” Becerra stated.

Ultimately, student veterans at Embry-Riddle are a dedicated and compassionate demographic who seek to build a community on campus.

“I would say that Veterans are a backbone to the Embry Riddle Student body,” Keefe told Horizons, “We hope that those who read this article will come to appreciate what we have sacrificed over time to come here and fulfill a higher level of purpose. We want to be able to be successful in our future and hope that those who come talk to us, will understand what we have done to get here.”

Becerra wanted Horizons readers to know that “we aren’t as scary as we might seem. Please come to the SVO office if you ever want to hang out with us and watch movies between classes. We have endless stories, great snacks, and are always open to answer questions if someone is thinking if they want to join the military. Please treat us as we are: regular people. We just have a different background than most of the students on campus.”

The SVO office is in the maze, Building 18. Readers can also visit their website [https://prescott.erau.edu/veterans-resources], check out the SVO Eagle Life page, or contact [prsvo@erau.edu] with questions or inquiries.

Horizons Newspaper thanks Embry-Riddle’s student veterans for their service and dedication to making this campus a better, and more supportive place.

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