GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Students, faculty and staff members who served or are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard were honored Thursday at the 11th-annual Veterans Day Breakfast at Grand Valley State University.
During the event – held at the Eberhard Center on the Pew Grand Rapids campus, President Philomena V. Mantella thanked veterans for their service and sacrifice.
She also said traditional higher education has failed the nation’s veterans.
“Only one out of 10 of our nation’s veterans who are in education are in institutions at the level of Grand Valley,” Mantella said. “They are coming to us with resources from their service and incredible leadership, and higher education needs to be shocked into action as it relates to our nation’s veterans.”
Mantella said GVSU will continue to generate ideas, new support systems, broader networks and more resources in order to be a model for others.
“The first thing we did after announcing the Veteran Promise (pre-approved admission to GVSU) was to share it because we’re calling others to the work,” she said. “That’s why we’re doing it and we’re proud to be leading.”
Jill Hinton Wolfe, military and veterans resource manager at GVSU, announced new initiatives to support military-connected families at the university.
Wolfe is working with the Seidman College of Business to hire a veteran programming coordinator for the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneurship Lab.
There are also efforts to establish a veterans leadership initiative, child care grants for student veteran parents and “Green Zone” training for faculty and staff.
“Green Zone training will help us do a deep dive on what it really means to be veteran inclusive,” Wolfe said. “We want veterans to be part of the larger community here at Grand Valley and to get the value that comes from that.”
Student veteran Enrique Leon, an Army veteran majoring in criminal justice, said being part of GVSU has helped him transition to civilian life, further his education and feel at home.
“Every time I needed help, I could always count on the people at Grand Valley,” Leon said. “Jill encouraged me to stay when I wanted to quit school.”
First Sgt. Matt Eversmann – co-author of “The Battle of Mogadishu” and “Walk in My Combat Boots” - was the keynote speaker and said every day is Veterans Day.
“We need to take care of each other every single day,” he said. “Why do we need to do that? Everyone who serves puts the needs of others first. It’s in our DNA. We are very courageous; we do our job when we are scared. We’re dutiful and fulfill our obligations.”