In anticipation of Veterans Day next week, the Stony Brook Office of Veterans Affairs, in cooperation with the Veteran Student Organization, held its annual Veterans Day ceremony on Wednesday. The event, which took place in the Sidney Gelber Auditorium, honored more than 200 student veterans at Stony Brook as well as those living in the surrounding communities.
The ceremony started with live music from the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band, followed by the presentation of colors, a performance of the national anthem and an invocation by Rabbi Ori Bergman from the university’s Interfaith Center.
Various public officials, including New York State Sen. Tom Croci, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright—the representative for Stony Brook and the surrounding villages—and State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick came out to give their thanks to local veterans.
Matthew Luce, president of the Veteran Student Organization, took the stage to speak about his time serving in Afghanistan.
“Going in, I thought I would see the world, shoot some guns and come out with some great stories,” Luce said. “What I didn’t realize was that the part of the world I would see was war-torn and desperate, that shooting guns was a serious matter, that I’d accumulate many stories, but there would be stories I’d find hard to share.”
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was retired major general and Bronze Star medal recipient Evo Riguzzi. Riguzzi started off his speech by giving a salute to all the World War II veterans in the audience.
“If it weren’t for these men, I don’t think I would have ended up where I am today,” he said.
Riguzzi then went on to discuss his experiences both in the military and as a civilian.
“What most people don’t realize is that in war, these men aren’t fighting for the Constitution so much as they’re fighting for the men to their left and right,” he said.
The ROTC closed the ceremony by retiring the colors, and guests were invited to a reception afterwards.
“This school really looks out for members of the military,” said student-veteran Brian Schaeffer, who is enrolled in the nursing program at Stony Brook. “They make sure we have the things we need to succeed. It was really nice to see them do something to show their appreciation for us.”
“I was very impressed with what went on here today,” said Walter Hazlitt, a World War II veteran who heard about the event through his local American Legion. “I’ve seen too many vets go neglected and not receive the proper care and respect they deserve, so it’s nice to see that there are people who care.”
“I think it was a huge success,” Marilyn Richardson of the Office of Veterans Affairs, who helped to organize the event, said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the ceremony grow even more in years to come as [the Office of Veterans Affairs] progresses.”