University President Steven Knapp praised the nearly 500 GW student veterans Thursday, saying the group has become a leader in the University’s commitment to service.
The event, a celebration of Veterans Day, was meant to honor the service of U.S. Armed Forces members both past and present.
“I’ve really admired the leadership role they’ve taken on our campus and they’ve been in the forefront of what we do with service in our community,” Knapp said.
Knapp lauded GW’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which funds a significant portion of veterans’ education costs.
He also thanked GW Student Veterans President Ryan Bos for his service to his fellow veterans, students and community, and honored sophomore Graham Platner, who is currently redeployed in Afghanistan.
Student veteran Royes Gernandt spoke about the history of the two minutes of silence established by President Woodrow Wilson for Armistice Day, to commemorate the “end of the great war in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”
Gernandt called for silence while a trumpeter with ROTC played taps and Knapp laid a wreath upon the Kogan Plaza clock tower with two midshipmen.
After the ceremony, the veterans introduced civilian students to certain aspects of military life. Students tried on body armor, helmets and packs of gear weighing more than 50 pounds. The veterans also held a PT – military jargon for “physical training” – contest where the two individuals who performed the most pull-ups or push-ups were awarded a GW Student Veterans T-shirt.
Graduate student Mike Schwille was one of several student veterans in the crowd. Schwille spent five years on active duty as a U.S. Army officer and is now in the Army Reserve. He praised GW Student Veteran Services for its work on behalf of student veterans on campus.
“They really fight a lot of the battles for the veterans,” he said. “If you’ve gone to war once or twice, you have a different perspective. It’s nice to have that community around to support you and get you acclimated to your new environment.”
The caption on the photo accompanying this article was updated on Nov. 15, 2010 to reflect the following changes:
The Hatchet misidentified Jim Stepanek as Sterling Gilliam.