“To offer love for our country and freedom”: Campus community raises a toast on Veterans Day

Juan Franco Guzman ’22 (left) sits with his wife Daniela while speaking to Director of Veteran & Military Services Jason Gilliland

Students, faculty, alumni and staff came together with the local veteran and military community on Veterans Day 2021 to toast campus community members for their service.

“SUNY New Paltz is rich with veterans in our ranks of faculty, staff and students who have served in every major world event going all the way back to World War II and continuing to present day,” said Jason Gilliland, director of veteran & military services and a service member and veteran of more than 20 years. “It is so humbling to be in the presence of folks who have been part of such historical and country-shaping world events.”

The Veterans Day Toast marked the in-person return of an annual campus tradition after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19. This year’s event was envisioned as a brief ceremony and reception with a capacity limit in place to protect attendees.

That ceremony included remarks from Navy veteran Juan Franco Guzman ’22 (Mechanical Engineering), who delivered a rousing keynote about why he stepped in to serve in the U.S. military.

“Why do we do it? There is no simple answer,” he said, “but I tell you today, and I’m sure many of you agree with me, that it was enough to offer love for our country and our freedom.”

Attendees then raised their glasses in honor of students, faculty, staff and alumni who are veterans, service members or dependents.

The success of the event is an example of the important work being done by the Office of Veteran & Military Services (OVMS), the central support hub for the veteran, active service and dependent students at SUNY New Paltz.

OVMS staff under Gilliland’s direction have supported hundreds of students, organized annual events and community-building activities, and helped raise awareness across the institution about the challenges military-affiliated individuals often face in their pursuit of higher education.

Their work has contributed to the College’s recognition as a Top 10 Military Friendly® School in the Small Public category, evidence of the College’s continues its rapid rise into the upper echelon of colleges and universities serving veterans, dependents and active military students.

Visit the Office of Veteran & Military Services online to learn more.