American flags placed outside IVC library to honor military veterans. (Anibal Santos)
Irvine Valley College held a special ceremony for Veterans Day inside the Student Service’s Lobby on Thursday Nov. 5th. The 30 minute ceremony took place at noon and featured military veteran speakers as well as administrators from the college.
IVC Vice President of Student Service Linda Fontanilla opened up the ceremony by thanking everyone for taking the time to attend.
“We are grateful to have this opportunity to come together and celebrate the men and women who have served in our armed forces to protect our country and to support our freedom and to help make this the greatest country in the world,” Fontanilla said. “Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to acknowledge and give honor our veterans across the nation and to our veteran students who attend Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College.”
Fontanilla recognized the newly-remodeled Veterans Center on campus as an accomplishment this past year.
“We know it’s not always easy for men and women who are returning from their military duty to transition into civilian life,” Fontanilla said. “But our staff faculty and students are working very hard to ensure incoming veterans that they receive the support they need in achieving their educational goals here in Irvine Valley College.”
South Orange County Community College District Trustee David Lang took over the ceremony to lead with the Pledge of Allegiance and followed it with speech on the college’s standing as a veteran-friendly school.
“I’m proud to say that Irvine Valley College is welcoming our student veterans with open arms,” Lang said.
Lang said the new Veterans Service Center was recently recognized by the President of the California Community Colleges Board of Governor’s as model for other community colleges.
“Our college has also been given the national distinction of being a military-friendly college,” Lang said.
The keynote speaker of the event was U.S. Air Force veteran and SOCCCD Trustee James Wright.
Wright spoke briefly on his experience in the Vietnam War and his thoughts on the ongoing the war on terrorism.
“This is the conflict I’m most familiar with (Vietnam) I recall the day Vietnam went from the back pages of newspapers and other periodicals and became a household word for thousands of American men and women it became something that changed their lives,” Wright said. “The ongoing war against terrorism is much different than any prior wars. The enemy is difficult to identify and victory will not come in a document and in the form of a documented formal surrender, such a war will continue into the future, but like past wars, it is being fought for freedom and that makes the fighting worth while.”
In his speech Dr. Wright went over struggles and fears as well as the adjustment vets make after their service such as supporting a family and being singled out for fighting in an unpopular war.
“Veterans who return home may be haunted by lingering images of war and combat transitioning from the intensity of a military life to a more sufficient civilian life can be overwhelming,” Wright said. “A supportive and informed faculty and staff including administrators is the key to military success and we have that here in Irvine Valley College. To succeed, veterans need our understanding, compassion and respect.”
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Benjamin Owens, a 23-year-old business management major, shared his experience with the Veteran’s Service Center at IVC and how his life is now as student at the campus.
The ceremony ended with the ASIVC President Ji Chung presenting a thank-you card to the IVC Veterans Service Center.
After the ceremony ended Wright took pictures with his colleagues and shared his thoughts on honoring Veterans Day.
“I think Veterans Day is a wonderful way to give our respect and remember our veterans because they have sacrificed an awful lot,” Dr. Wright said.
Wright had originally intended to mention the names of fallen soldiers he knew in his speech, but decided not to during the ceremony.
“I almost was going to mention their names, but didn’t because it was something very emotional to look at that wall (Vietnam Memorial) and see some names I knew very well who were killed in Vietnam. It was not a popular war, but they came forward and they served,” Wright said. “The military is why we have our way of life in the United States, and we are the greatest nation in the world because we have a strong military and the military provides us with these opportunities that many of us take for granted.”
Owens, who plans to transfer to Cal State Fullerton to study business, shared his thoughts on the meaning of the Veterans Day.
“It’s nice that they are honoring our veterans, don’t get me wrong I love every second of that, but this day is about veterans and it needs to stay that way,” he said. “People need to know remember that it’s about the people who have fought and died for this country.”
Veterans Day is a day that can be neglected because not all people are directly affected, but Owens hoped that people consider how their actions affect returning veterans.
“Veterans are a young people who have had to deal more in their lives thank most people have or most people will have to in their entire lives. Their level of stress that they have to deal with is quite a bit and to come to that into their regular life is not easy,” Owens said. “I would say don’t judge a book by its cover. [If] you see a veteran, say ‘hello,’ they are people just like the rest of us.”