A national organization of veterans commended the GW Vets with an award of excellence Friday for the campus support system that integrates student veterans into university life.
National President of VietNOW Rich Sanders said the strong network of the University’s veterans will always be there “to pull each another along when you need it.”
“You have given the student veterans at GW a tool to use in portraying the intangible skills and qualities that have been gained through their military service to our nation,” Sanders said.
The national organization passed down a memorial banner with the names of the Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties.
“It is certainly an honor for GW Veterans to become the caretakers of this banner that honors our fallen brothers,” president of GW Vets Scott Disney said.
The student-run group and the University’s veteran’s office expanded the annual ceremony to include a weeklong awareness campaign. At Friday’s culminating ceremony at Kogan Plaza, University President Steven Knapp applauded GW Vets’ contributions to campus.
“Here at GW, our own veterans who have devoted themselves and risked their lives for our country continue that service,” Knapp said, adding that the “maturity and commitment” student veterans bring to GW is a model for other students.
Knapp emphasized the University’s Yellow Ribbon Program, a federal financial aid program that covers tuition for student veterans. GW stepped up its commitment to the program in 2010, as the Department of Veteran Affairs’ shrinking budget threatened tuition assistance programs.
More than 700 veterans and their family members receive University funding under this year’s program, Knapp said.
Robert Reichner, a double veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the Army, spoke during the ceremony. The recipient of the State Department Award for military service said Veteran’s Day is about reflecting “who you are, where you are and who you will become.”
Reichner spoke to veterans’ ability to appreciate their struggles and successes.
“As you reflect, you realize you never would have gotten where you are without giving thanks.”
The Veterans Awareness week also included student volunteer events and a presentation from one of the last surviving World War II army rangers.
“The best part was watching students work side by side with student vets and have the vets relay their military experiences and help build up the GW community,” Geoff Ball, GW Vets’ coordinator for service event, said.
Last week, the University was recognized as a top four-year college for veterans by the Military Times.
GW was deemed the nation’s No. 16 most military friendly college, revered for its financial aid commitment and student veteran’s office.