With many student veterans and veterans teaching or working at the college's five campuses, it was important to South Texas College Veterans Affairs Coordinator Javier Arredondo to ensure each campus held a special celebration to mark Veterans Day.
"As a veteran myself, I know the challenges these men and women face in their service and in their personal lives," he explained. "I saw the pain in the eyes of my wife and sons when I had to leave home. It was hard, but I love the military and I love my country. I loved to serve. Veterans and their families give so much to ensure our country remains free. It's important to take at least one day a year to honor that commitment."
However, Arredondo ensured that STC took more than one day to honor veterans. Flag raisings in the morning at the college's Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco, Technology Campus in McAllen and Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City on Thursday, Nov. 9, kicked off the college's Veterans Day activities. Special documentaries where shown at the campuses later in the day, but the highlight of the activities was a special student veterans roundtable discussion at the college's Starr County Campus that afternoon. Student veterans answered questions from their peers and discussed their experiences.
"I feel a little more appreciated and I think events like these give people a better perspective of what veterans like me went through and still go through," STC Starr County Campus student and veteran Eloy Rosales said of his participation on the panel. "I was a specialist in the U.S. Army driving around tanks in Iraq for two years. When I came back, I eventually decided to go back to school and being a veteran has helped tremendously to pay for my education.
"But college life is very different from service life and it has been an adjustment," he added. "All veterans go through these adjustments. All I can say is that I encourage anyone to go up to veterans and thank them for their service. It will make their day."
Rosales will soon earn his associate's degree in criminal justice and hopes to go into law enforcement one day.
On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, a color guard with representatives from the Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corp. and Navy raised the flags at the college's Pecan Campus in McAllen. The ceremony included the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by STC staff member Laura Ortiz, invocation by Ricardo Ramirez, an address by Iraq War veteran and STC student Joe Bohannon and a closing prayer by Pastor Charles Lancaster.
"I entered the Marine Corp. in 2000 and in 2003 I had the distinct opportunity to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Bohannon. "I only hope that my conduct during that time honors the others that came before me and that I made them proud."
"It is always said that freedom isn't free, but there is no real description for the actual price of it," he continued. "Well there are many people who have paid that price. Each service member takes an oath to defend our freedom at all costs, including not seeing their family members for months on end, not seeing their first baby being born and in some cases, even their lives. If you know or meet a veteran, just give them a hug and shake their hand. You will never know what it means to them."
A flag raising ceremony at the college's Nursing and Allied Health Campus in McAllen later in the day closed out the college's activities. Attendees to all the events were treated to refreshments and veterans were given a special pin from the college.
"In addition to honoring our veterans, I also want to point out that there are so many benefits that are available for them to take advantage of at STC," concluded Arredondo. "My job at STC is to make the experience of our student veterans better and more enjoyable. I am a support system for them. It's an honor and a privilege to have this job. I hope more of our community veterans take advantage of the opportunities STC offers them."
For more pictures of the Veterans Day celebratory activities at STC, visit the college's Facebook Fan Page at http://www.facebook.com/stcjaguars.
For more information about STC's Veterans Affairs Services contact Javier Arredondo at 956-872-6723 or firstname.lastname@example.org.