Photo courtesy of Derek Swanson.
Veterans were honored at the Valor Week ceremony held by the university.
Lewis University celebrated Veterans Valor Week from Monday, Nov. 6 to Friday, Nov. 10. The celebration is designed to pay tribute to the many veteran students and staff members at the university and to bring awareness to the services designed to help veterans adapt to college life.
Over the course of the week, many events were held, including the Military Hail Program, the Veterans Day Ceremony, the “Push for 22” event and the Phone-A-Thon for veterans.
Another event was the Becoming a Vet Ally seminar, held Tuesday, Nov. 7, with the purpose to “enhance the awareness, services and faculty pedagogy for our growing student veteran population,” according to Roman Ortega Jr., the director of the university’s Veterans Affairs and Recruitment. Ortega is a graduate of Lewis, as well as a Lt. Col. in the United States Army with 19 years of service. He is currently serving in the Army Reserve.
Ortega detailed some of the services Lewis offers to its veterans, as well as some alarming statistics regarding PTSD for veterans post-military life. According to the National Center for PTSD, 11 to 20 percent of all veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD. For the Gulf War, as much as 10 percent have PTSD, and for the Vietnam War, the number climbs to a staggering 30 percent.
In the Veterans Day ceremony, President Dr. Livingston paid tribute to the veterans currently at Lewis. Brigadier General Jackson of the U.S. Army was the keynote speaker for the ceremony. Jackson was deployed in Iraq from January 2005 to May 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as in numerous other engagements.
“We didn’t exactly celebrate our veterans immediately following World War I, when Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day,” said Jackson. “Instead it was a day observed in a much more solemn fashion, marking the deaths of service members in the ‘war to end all wars.’ But today it is truly a celebration of the men and women who have contributed blood, sweat and tears to the success of the United States.”
The celebrations continued with the “Push for 22” on Thursday, where, for every 50 cents donated, Roman Ortega and the other leaders behind Valor Week would do a push-up. The donations would go to the family of a former veteran and student at Lewis who committed suicide last year after suffering from PTSD.
In 2015, Illinois was home to over 35,000 veterans. In the fall of 2014, Lewis had a veteran enrollment of 464, a number that is continuously growing. Eighty-four percent of these veterans are over the age of 24, according to the American Council on Education.
Lewis University is a Yellow Ribbon school, meaning that any fees not covered by the GI Bill for veterans will be covered by the university. The university is committed to helping veterans assimilate into the student population, as well as address some of the needs that most veterans have as non-traditional students.
Roman Ortega is the leader of the Vet Ally program and encourages any service members in need to reach out to him. His services are available to all veterans at any time. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as his office phone at