Every once in a while, an intrepid student asks SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm why the college holds classes on Veterans Day, rather than shutting its doors like many government offices and public school districts.
The answer to the question is etched in stone: “The price of freedom is not free,” the words on the back of SUNY Broome’s Veterans Monument. The best way to honor veterans is to respect the freedoms they fought to protect – including the freedom to pursue higher education – and to thank them. That’s the goal every year during SUNY Broome’s annual Veterans Day observance.
“We couldn’t be here enjoying the kind of freedoms we do as Americans if not for all of the sacrifices our veterans have made over the generations,” Dr. Drumm said. “Many of our veterans of course face enormous risks around world, many of which we don’t hear about.”
As is traditional, the ceremony featured a procession by the Broome County Veterans Memorial Association Color Guard, and Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a representative bearing an official proclamation. SUNY Broome student Jada Jeremiah performed a lovely rendition of the national anthem, and Student Activities once again distributed green lightbulbs for the annual #GreenlightAVet campaign.
“We are a community that honors our heroes and we recognize the very difficult sacrifices they made not only for our country, but our community as well,” said state Senator Fred Akshar, a SUNY Broome alumnus, during the ceremony.
SUNY Broome in fact owes its origins to veterans returning from World War II, who received the unprecedented opportunity to pursue a college education thanks to the GI Bill. The bill necessitated the creation of the public college system, and SUNY Broome was among the state’s first Institutes of Applied Arts and Sciences – the forerunner to today’s community college system – back in 1946.
Veterans still attend classes at SUNY Broome, and the college does its best to support veterans in turn, President Drumm noted.
The college has its own Veterans Resource Center in the Student Services Building, where veterans can go to study, navigate their benefits or socialize with one another in a safe and supportive environment. SUNY Broome Dental Hygiene students also offer free dental hygiene services for veterans every year, and Congressman Anthony Brindisi recently hosted a Veterans Resource Fair on campus to connect local veterans with community services. Over the summer, Brindisi also hosted a pinning ceremony for surviving Vietnam War veterans in the West Gym.
This commitment to veterans isn’t particularly new. When Broome County Executive Jason Garnar attended class on campus nearly two decades ago, he remembered a class on the Vietnam War in America. The subject matter wasn’t just limited to textbooks and lectures; the professors brought in Vietnam War veterans from around the county, who discussed their wartime experiences and the reception they received when they returned home.
It’s an experience that drives home the importance of community colleges – not only in engaged teaching methods that bring subject matter to life, but in preserving history for future generations.
“I am often reminded as to how strong this community is as to its support of its veterans,” Garnar said.