More than 150 SUNY New Paltz students, faculty and staff, many of whom are among the more than 200 veterans, service members and dependents who are either enrolled as students or employed by the College, came together on May 22 for a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony, a tribute to the courageous men and women who have been killed in defense of the security and values of the United States.
“Today we pay homage to all of the million-plus American service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this great nation since the American Revolutionary War,” said Jason Gilliland, coordinator of Veteran & Military Services. “We are here to observe this day as it should be: a day when we actively remember our ancestors, family members, loved ones, neighbors and friends who have given their lives for this country and for the privileges we enjoy.”
A number of notable speakers with ties to the veteran community appeared on campus to offer their thoughts:
Major Kimberly Cardona-Smith, Commander of the 213th Engineering and Installation Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y. (and sister to Niza Cardona, director of Student Accounts at New Paltz).
“Let us remember those who are deployed today,” Major Cardona-Smith said. “They are far from home, but close to our hearts. Let us salute them, and hope for their safe return. Most importantly, let us make Memorial Day every day, by never forgetting to honor the men and women who gave their all.”
Nathan Parker ’16 (Communication Studies – Public Relations / Psychology), United States Marine Corps, retired and veteran of the Iraq War. Parker dedicated his address not only to those who have fallen, but also to those veterans who struggle to reclaim their lives upon their return from deployment.
Emile Kuyl, student athlete at New Paltz High School, expressed thanks on behalf of a younger generation for the opportunities made possible by American soldiers who liberated his grandparents from Nazi occupied Germany during World War II.
Timothy Toomey ’17 (Political Science), Army National Guard and veteran of the Afghanistan War. Toomey shared the story of a fellow service member, Captain Jennifer Moreno, who lost her life while offering medical care to wounded soldiers during her deployment in Afghanistan.
Andrew Mronchik, representative of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8645 and veteran of the Iraq War. Mronchik requested a moment of silence for “the fallen brothers” he served with during his tour of duty.
Following those remarks, Toomey and Kuyl laid the wreath representing the fallen beneath the flags flying at half-mast outside the Haggerty Administration Building. Music Department adjunct instructor Rebecca Coupe Franks performed “Taps” on trumpet, and William Hennessey, Inter-library Loan clerk for the Sojourner Truth Library and a former service member, gave his rendering of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
Gilliland credited Hennessey, who has participated in wreath ceremonies for 15 years as a member of the New Windsor American Legion, with helping him develop the original proposal to begin a tradition of hosting Memorial Day services on campus.
More information about Veterans & Military Services at SUNY New Paltz is available online.