As a sign language interpreter rendered her words into graceful gestures, SUNY Broome student Marisa Kreidler sang the National Anthem at the start of SUNY Broome’s Veterans Day observance.
The campus community and guests gather each year to honor the service of veterans, who safeguard our rights as Americans – including the freedom of speech, the press and assembly, and the freedom to vote and pursue an education, said Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Francis Battisti.
“Our veterans put their own education, careers and families on hold on behalf of this country – on behalf of us all. In short, military service is a sacrifice and a life-changing experience for both the people in uniform, and their families back home,” Dr. Battisti said.
While SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm was traveling and unable to make the 2018 ceremony, he sent words of support. “Thank you to all those in our academic community who have served and to all veterans across the nation and around the world. We enjoy the freedoms we have today thanks to your dedication to our great country,” he wrote.
Up until 1954, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day and initially marked the end of the first World War a century ago on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The forces the “Great War” set in motion are still shaping and dividing our world today in the 21st century, Dr. Battisti said.
Unlike Memorial Day, which remembers the fallen, Veterans Day honors those living who serve or have served their country. While it wasn’t always true in the past, today’s service members are all volunteers, making their sacrifice on behalf of their nation even more meaningful, Dr. Battisti said.
SUNY Broome, like other community colleges, owes its beginnings to veterans. After World War II, the G.I. Bill gave returning veterans the opportunity to pursue higher education – a new development in a country where college was traditionally reserved for people of means. Those veterans needed a public college system to accommodate their desire to learn, which spurred the creation in New York State of five Institutes of Applied Arts and Sciences. These institutes – SUNY Broome among them – became the core of the new community college system.
SUNY Broome students continue to attend class on the G.I. Bill today, and veterans remain an important part of our campus community. They have a space of their own in the Veterans Resource Center, located in the Student Services Building, where they can focus on academics or socialize with each other in a safe and supportive space.
“For the students out there who aren’t veterans, I encourage you to reach out to your peers who have served and value their experiences and their voices,” Dr. Battisti said. “They are part of the wonderful diversity we have here on campus.”
During the ceremony, SUNY Broome welcomed state Senator Fred Akshar, a proud alumnus of the college, along with Broome County Sheriff David Harder and Binghamton Mayor Rich David. Akshar offered a succinct message of gratitude to veterans, both past and present.
“We have a beautiful country and we have all of you to thank for that,” he said.
Dr. Battisti also encouraged attendees to visit the Innocent Souls Exhibit on the sixth floor of the County Office Building in downtown Binghamton. Sponsored by SUNY Broome’s Civic Engagement Center and the Broome County Arts Council, the exhibit features the photography of Glenn Hoover, a Vestal native, during his tour of duty during the Vietnam War in 1968. SUNY Broome hosted the exhibit in 2017.
Following the ceremony, Student Activities Director Jason Boring distributed green lightbulbs as part of the national Greenlight A Vet initiative, which is intended to highlight veterans as valued members of our community.