Veteran graduates honored with patriot cords
As people began to fill Melcher Hall on Friday evening, conversations were heard among those seated, awaiting for the event to commence.
“I was in the Army,” one said.
“I was attached to the 1st Marine Division,” said another.
The people in the seats were student veterans who were about to complete their next chapter after getting out of the service: achieving their college degree.
The ceremony for the 2014 Military and Veteran Graduates was to honor them with patriot cords for them to wear during their commencement ceremonies. Most importantly, they were the first at UH to receive this honor.
“I didn’t know we were first until I heard it today,” said supply chain logistic technology senior and Marine veteran Alexander Amador. “It’s really good to hear that.”
Human resources development senior and Marine veteran Alma Santes-Vargas said she thought the ceremony was great.
“I thought they did a good job with the whole ceremony,” Santes-Vargas said. “I don’t think they did it last year. It felt really good that they did this for us and they took the time to honor that.”
Associate professor and Navy campus liaison officer Lt. j.g. Lawrence J.H. Schulze presented the student veterans with the patriot cords. He credited the event planner, Lawren Bradberry and the Veterans Services Offices. Schulze said he was honored to give the soon-to-be graduates their cords.
“I’m honored to work with these guys and also honored to help out and celebrate their successes — that’s important,” Schulze said. “In whatever way I can help out, I’m willing to do that. This is something that is just as hard to achieve as anything else, and it’s something that sometimes is even harder to achieve.”
Marine veteran and founder and chair emeritus of the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship William Sherrill fought on Iwo Jima along with thousands of other Marines. He had originally planned to make the Marine Corps a 30-year career, but a wound ended his plans.
“You have to feel you’re worthwhile. Once you accept yourself to be worthwhile, it’s possible to be happy. The point is that they have put in a lot into their education. They and their families have sacrificed for them to get the education,” Sherrill said.
“It’s also good for their nation, because they also know how to serve our nation. If they use their education, they’ll further their nation as well as themselves.”
Schulze emphasized that a big hurdle of students who come from either a reserve or active duty is that they miss the cohesion of a military unit.
“Concentrate on what the mission is and treat it like a job. Treat school just like a job. Spend the time that you would normally spend in school full-time,” Schulze said. “Remember honor, courage and commitment. It’s something that will sustain you through the times when it gets tough. We all have those in the service, and just remember that you made it through, you can make it through this.”
Amador said he believes this ceremony can influence peers who are starting school and motivate any service member to finish college as well.
“When you come into college, you really don’t connect well with the college student, but you connect really well with the service members,” Amador said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things — make connections with those veterans.”
As for how to survive the time to complete the mission, Amador said it helps to reflect where you came from.
“Remembering why you joined your service, to be pushing forward your goal, making it your priority,” he said. “Just always reflecting yourself. To me it was self-motivation, knowing that I complete the Marine Corps and I just wanted to do something else greater.”