SUNY New Paltz hosted a gathering of its veteran, military and dependent community for a third annual Veterans Day Dining In ceremony at the College Terrace on Nov. 11. Nearly 100 students, faculty, staff, friends, family members and supporters came together to pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice of America’s armed forces, and enjoy one another’s good company.
“Events like this put us all in a room together and help us create a campus family,” said Jason Gilliland, coordinator of veteran and military services and a service member and veteran of nearly 20 years.
“Tonight we gather to honor our veteran and service members, past and present, for their service to this great country. We recognize our Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard veterans who have sacrificed in both war and peace to protect America and the American way of life. We honor our brave men and women who have proudly served this great nation, for they are the fabric from which our flag was woven.”
This year’s program featured two keynote addresses, from Staff Sergeant Samuel L. Davies ’16 (Marketing), who will soon graduate from New Paltz, and Assistant Professor Emeritus of Black Studies Zelbert Moore, an Army veteran.
Staff Sergeant Davies focused his remarks on the meaning of Veterans Day, both in his personal experience and in the broader cultural context.
“We mark certain days in order to come together, in whatever shape or form that takes,” he said. “On Veterans Day, we consider what it means to have life here in our country, and reflect on what we have to feel grateful for as a unified people. What I need from Veterans Day is to see my country united for the cause of freedom, so that my service wasn’t in vain. We the people need Veterans Day, and I am one of those people.”
Moore shared personal anecdotes from his military experience, and offered insights into how the military community has grown at SUNY New Paltz, recently named a G.I. Jobs Military Friendly® school, in recent years.
“Some of you have been here long enough to remember when we had Veterans Opportunity Day in the Student Union, but they couldn’t make it a permanent thing,” Moore said. “So when I finally discovered New Paltz now has a veterans’ office, well, they can’t keep me out of there. If I’m on campus, I invite myself in and tell them how glad I am to see them there.”
The Veterans Day Dining-In event culminated with a traditional POW-MIA dinner table ceremony. A single-seat table was positioned at the front and center of the room, with an empty chair symbolizing the missing servicemen and servicewomen who were not able to join in the dinner, but who are never far from the thoughts of their fellow veterans, families and citizens.
More information about Veterans & Military Services at SUNY New Paltz is available online.