Stony Brook University held its annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony at the Student Activities Center on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
The ceremony aimed to honor the veterans in the audience and to shed light on all they have sacrificed for the United States. More than 200 people attended the ceremony, including Iraq, Vietnam and World War II veterans.
The first speaker at the ceremony, Stony Brook student and Air Force veteran Katherine Maier, outlined her military career. In her speech, she described the different types of planes that she learned to fly with her regiment. She was skilled enough that she was promoted to First Lieutenant.
“The last few years have been an absolute whirlwind. I went from finding and accomplishing a goal that I set myself at 19 years old to having the rug dramatically ripped out from under me,” Maier said. “After finding my footing again, I know I ended up in the place that is the best for me.”
Navy veteran and Vice President for Facilities and Services at Stony Brook, Dean Tufts, recognized elderly veterans in the Sidney Gelber Auditorium after Maier’s speech by asking them to stand. His voice shook when speaking about the American perception of military personnel during the Vietnam War when the U.S. did not regard military personnel with the same respect as they did in prior wars. Americans equated the soldiers with a lost war, an idea that many could not accept; as a result, the appreciation for these veterans greatly decreased.
“When I came back from Iraq, I came back to a country that appreciated my service,” he said. “That wasn’t always the case. For all the people who raised their hands for serving in Vietnam, I want to thank you for your service. It’s hard enough. From my heart, I thank you.”
Tufts stressed the importance of thanking veterans for their service even if it may seem uncomfortable.
“It means the world to a veteran,” he said. “We don’t know what to say but please if you feel like you want to do it, do it because it will make our day.”
Tufts closed his speech with advice that detailed the importance of getting over the fear of becoming a leader.
“Don’t be afraid to lead,” he said. “This world needs leaders. We are world leaders. That’s why I’m here. That’s what excites me about his place. We are graduating leaders.”
Sonia Garrido, a member of the Committee of Veteran’s Day Affairs, said that events like this at Stony Brook are important for both veterans and students.
“It brings it home,” she said. “You always hear of veterans. So if there’s a student speaker, a student like us who served in the military, even if they came from a different background, they are still students who we can relate to.”
Pamela Pfeil, Coordinator of Veteran Student Services, explained that the event strove to help civilians “understand the sacrifice of veterans” and for “veterans to honor those before them.”
Stony Brook electrical engineering graduate student, Wenfeng Wan, had a different outlook on the significance of the ceremony, commenting on Tufts’ segment in his speech on not taking American voting rights for granted.
“I have a lot of feelings about this because I come from China and we don’t have voting rights,” Wang said. “Yesterday was Election Day and I really hope that one day I can elect my own leader.”
Wang also said that American soldiers are taken for granted, which is why he believes an event like the Veteran’s Day Ceremony is critical in reminding American citizens of the soldiers fighting for their freedoms and rights.