Students, faculty, alumni and staff came together to toast those who have served and continue to serve in the U.S. military, and their family members and dependents, at the ninth annual Veterans Day Celebration at SUNY New Paltz.
“We are here to recognize our Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force veterans who have sacrificed, both in war and in peace, to protect America and the American way of life,” said Jason Gilliland, director of veteran & military services and a service member and veteran of more than 20 years. “We also celebrate our campus community of veterans and their families, because let’s face it, the families do a lot of the work too and make a lot of sacrifices,” he said.
The event included introductory remarks from President Darrell P. Wheeler, himself a United States Air Force veteran, participating in our campus celebration for the first time since his appointment earlier this year. President Wheeler was traveling this week but offered words of gratitude via a prerecorded video.
“I salute you this evening,” he said. “Today, this is a special day and opportunity for us to once again remind ourselves of the values that brought each and every one of us to wearing the uniform.”
The Veterans Day Toast also featured remarks from keynote speakers Andrew DiFiore ’24 (International Business) and Dennis Doherty ’83 ’91g (English), now an instructor with the Department of English. Both spoke of their military experiences, touching on the importance of Veterans Day and the personal impact of military service:
“Veterans Day is a day when I remember the sacrifice people like me signed up for so people in America could themselves have the right to speak their mind, pursue happiness and enjoy what we have fought so hard to defend,” said DiFiore.
“In the military, you learn much about who you are away from home,” said Doherty. “You find yourself being taught in ways you never knew, doing things you never knew existed, and being challenged in dimensions beyond your imagination.”
Attendees then raised their glasses in honor of students, faculty, staff and alumni who are veterans, service members or dependents.
Each year, the Office of Veteran & Military Services (OVMS), the central support hub for the veteran, active service and dependent students at SUNY New Paltz, works tirelessly to support this growing campus community. They are joined in support by the College administration, faculty and staff.
This year, OVMS owed a special gratitude to their veteran student workers for putting the event together:
- Ashlee Dykeman ’24 (Astronomy)
- Eric Chiarito ’23 (History)
- Nathan Vermillion ’23 (Digital Media Production)
- Mason Longenberger ’23 (Contract)
- Colleen Sewall ’23 (Geology)
- Sam-Karis Oghenekome ’23 (Electrical Engineering)
“They do so much to put on this event and throughout the entire year,” said Gilliland. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”