CSM hon­ors vet­er­ans with break­fast and recog­ni­tion cer­e­monies

Break­fast and recog­ni­tions part of col­lege’s ef­forts to honor he­roes

The Enterprise - - Front Page -

St. Mary’s County Com­mis­sioner John O’Con­nor was “preach­ing to the choir” in his re­marks at the an­nual Vet­er­ans Break­fast and Open House on Nov. 9 at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land’s La Plata cam­pus.

O’Con­nor (R) served more than seven years in the U.S. Army, and he spoke about the bond that peo­ple in the ser­vice share in his ad­dress to the group of com­mu­nity mem­bers and CSM fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents, many of whom were vet­er­ans, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from CSM.

“We’re loyal to one an­other. We’re loyal to our coun­try,” O’Con­nor said.

Us­ing his best friend and “bat­tle buddy,” Shawn Winn, as an ex­am­ple of this bond, O’Con­nor shared sto­ries of how he met Winn and how, over their years of ser­vice to­gether, they watched out for one an­other, joked dur­ing dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions and of­fered sup­port dur­ing in­juries and re­cov­er­ies. “Af­ter I was shot, he pulled me out,” O’Con­nor said.

“In ser­vice … you don’t have to know where that per­son is, but there’s a bond, an un­spo­ken bond, there,” he said.

That con­nec­tion that vet­er­ans feel with one an­other was men­tioned re­peat­edly by stu­dents at the break­fast in­volved in the CSM Stu­dent Vet­er­ans Or­ga­ni­za­tion, one of the event’s spon­sors. Pro­vid­ing ways to foster that con­nec­tion at the col­lege is one of the ways CSM sup­ports the 730 stu­dents us­ing vet­eran ben­e­fits at the col­lege.

The CSM Vet­er­ans Re­source Cen­ter is lo­cated at the La Plata cam­pus and is a crit­i­cal gath­er­ing point for the col­lege’s vet­er­ans. In ad­di­tion to of­fer­ing a place where vet­er­ans can meet and re­lax or work on their stud­ies at one of the com­puter sta­tions, it is a place to get in­for­ma­tion about ben­e­fits and other pro­grams avail­able to vet­er­ans on cam­pus. CSM also em­ploys a full­time vet­er­ans af­fairs co­or­di­na­tor, Robert Henry, USN (re­tired), who as­sists stu­dents at three of the CSM cam­puses.

One of the guests at the Nov. 9 event, Michael Ar­naud, 47, of Hunt­ing­town is a home­land se­cu­rity ma­jor at CSM. He served eight years in the U.S. Army and Na­tional Guard. He said he ap­pre­ci­ates the re­source cen­ter space at CSM.

“It’s a place where we can go and do our school work and we’re with other vet­er­ans,” Ar­naud said. “It makes the col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence eas­ier.” It is eas­ier be­cause at the cen­ter or when­ever he is with other vet­er­ans, he is with peo­ple who un­der­stand, Ar­naud said.

“They’re my brothers. It’s easy to es­tab­lish that rap­port. It’s dif­fi­cult to ex­plain,” he said, ad­ding that in the ser­vice they were taught to rely on one an­other so that ev­ery­one can be suc­cess­ful to­gether. “What gets you through is your guy on your left and the guy on your right.”

Jeremy Foster, 33, of Wal­dorf is pres­i­dent of the CSM Stu­dent Vet­er­ans Or­ga­ni­za­tion and works to con­tinue that sup­port­ive at­mos­phere at the col­lege. Af­ter serv­ing in the U.S. Army for 12 years, in­clud­ing three de­ploy­ments in the Mid­dle East, Foster is now a cybersecurity stu­dent at CSM. In ad­di­tion, Foster is em­ployed by the Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion to help ed­u­cate vet­er­ans about their ben­e­fits.

He said that for vet­er­ans to re­turn to col­lege or to start col­lege af­ter leav­ing the ser­vice is a “read­just­ment.” There is of­ten an age dif­fer­ence with other col­lege stu­dents and there is def­i­nitely an ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ence, he said. Foster’s work with other stu­dents who are vet­er­ans is a way for him to serve and help ease the tran­si­tion, he added.

“For me, I’ve al­ways wanted to help and give back,” Foster said.

Keith Mitchell, 50, of Wal­dorf is an­other CSM stu­dent and vet­eran who par­tic­i­pated in the break­fast. Mitchell served for five years in the U.S. Army, in­clud­ing ser­vice in Europe dur­ing Desert Storm.

Ar­riv­ing on cam­pus to study graphic de­sign and pho­tog­ra­phy, Mitchell said it was “shaky” at first. But get­ting in­volved at the CSM Vet­er­ans Re­source Cen­ter made all the dif­fer­ence. “You didn’t feel alone,” Mitchell said.

CSM Pres­i­dent Mau­reen Mur­phy spoke at the break­fast, thank­ing the fac­ulty, stu­dents and vis­i­tors who are vet­er­ans. “Your ser­vice has pro­tected us, and we’re grate­ful,” Mur­phy said. “Ser­vice comes at a sac­ri­fice, and we know that.”

In ad­di­tion to the break­fast and an open house that fol­lowed at the CSM Vet­er­ans Re­source Cen­ter, the col­lege showed ap­pre­ci­a­tion to its mil­i­tary vet­er­ans with a recog­ni­tion cer­e­mony spon­sored by the stu­dent as­so­ci­a­tion at the Prince Fred­er­ick cam­pus on Nov. 10. CSM also par­tic­i­pated in the Vet­er­ans Day Pa­rade in Leonard­town on Nov. 11.

CSM is the fifth largest vet­eran-serv­ing col­lege or univer­sity in Mary­land. The col­lege is ap­proved by the U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and the Mary­land Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion, which al­lows el­i­gi­ble vet­er­ans, ser­vice mem­bers and cer­tain de­pen­dents to re­ceive VA ed­u­ca­tional ben­e­fits for credit cer­tifi­cate and as­so­ciate de­gree pro­grams.

For in­for­ma­tion about CSM vet­eran and mil­i­tary sup­port ser­vices, email vet­er­ans­ben­e­fits@csmd.edu or visit www.csmd.edu/ Vet­er­ans.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTOS

Par­tic­i­pants share a toast to POWs at the an­nual Vet­er­ans Break­fast and Open House held at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land’s La Plata cam­pus Nov. 9.

St. Mary’s County Com­mis­sioner John O’Con­nor (R) shares sto­ries from his time in the ser­vice dur­ing the an­nual Vet­er­ans Break­fast and Open House at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land’s La Plata cam­pus Nov. 9.

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