In celebration of Veterans Day, about 50 students, faculty and veterans attended a ceremony on White-Gravenor Lawn yesterday.
The ceremony aimed to bridge the gap between the general university community and Georgetown students in the military.
In a speech at the ceremony, student veterans advocacy group Georgetown University Student Veterans Association President Christine Starke (SFS ’18) said veterans and Georgetown students have more in common than many believe.
“Our experiences, passions and future careers span as wide as the rest of the Georgetown student body,” Starke said. “We hold a diverse set of opinions, political stances and perspectives on our own service and how it should or should not be recognized.”
The ceremony, which was hosted by the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association, is part of November’s Military Awareness Month. A series of university offices and student groups, including the Office of the President, Campus Ministry and the LGBTQ Resource Center, are hosting events on issues ranging from issues facing students in international militaries to transgender rights in the military.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Daniel Feehan (SFS ’05), the ceremony’s keynote speaker, said veterans at Georgetown must work to help create unity, especially in light of President-elect Donald Trump’s victory over former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.
“I am here to ask you today to continue engaging in that same work to defuse divisiveness that currently exists in 2016. And not just you student veterans, but all of us,” Feehan said. “Political and cultural divisions that we experience aren’t the only challenges that we face on Veterans Day. We also face the need to bring together those in the military and those outside of it.”
A central issue that veterans face is a misunderstanding and lack of communication with others, according to Feehan. Feehan challenged the audience to bridge this divide by engaging in discussions with veterans to tap into those personal experiences.
“Don’t let our troops and veterans feel like they are kept at arm’s length,” Feehan said. “Most veterans don’t want special treatment. They just want to be understood, and that means get to know our military as individuals, not just as the idea of troops of veterans.”
President John J. DeGioia’s Chief of Staff Joseph Ferrara said veterans and other students joining together makes the entire community stronger.
“We are driven by the knowledge that we are stronger and that we are at our best when we work together,” Ferrara said. “As a university we are committed to working together to create the best possible context where veterans can share their talents, develop their skills and leadership and uphold the values that characterize the military.”
Following the speeches, the color guard hoisted an American flag dedicated to Georgetown veterans.
Ferrara said veterans represent the best of Georgetown.
“By celebrating you this afternoon, we celebrate the very best of our community, the core values that animate our tradition at Georgetown,” Ferrara said.
Maire Stierer (COL ’20), who attended the ceremony, said the ceremony was important to raise awareness for veterans issues.
“Using Veterans Day to open a dialogue about veterans in our community and our greater community of D.C. is huge,” Stierer said.
A ceremony in Riggs Library also celebrated the 241st birthday of the Marine Corps. The oldest and youngest Marines present participated in a traditional cake-cutting ceremony with a Mameluke sword.
Beyond organizing the ceremony and reception, student veteran groups and faculty on campus have made efforts to increase an awareness of veterans on campus in recent years. GUSVA Vice President Vivian Cochran (SFS ’18) said it is important to educate the student body on the veteran culture at Georgetown.
“GUSVA works very closely with faculty to better educate them on how to work with student veterans, but we also hold a lot of social events, and a lot of professional networking events for creating a dialogue and letting them know that we are normal human beings, just trying to get an education like everyone else,” Cochran said.
These efforts have not been without visible result, according to GUSVA Faculty Advisor Barbara Mujica, who said the response to Georgetown veterans has become more positive since she came to the university in 2009.
“Over the years what we’ve seen is that there’s been an awareness of all kinds of topics like women in the military, women in leadership positions, the relationship between military and civilians. These things have developed, and I think the talk today about unity and working together show that the discussion has really matured,” Mujica said.
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