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The Office of Veterans Affairs and Recruitment hosted a weeklong celebration in honor of veterans on campus from Wednesday Nov. 7 to Monday Nov. 12. The events were open to all members of the Lewis community and were designed to bridge the gap between traditional college students and the large veteran population on campus.
The events celebrating Veterans Week included the American Legion picnic and bonfire, becoming a Vet Ally seminar, Toys 4 Tots, the native Veteran Art Show and the Veterans Day ceremony to conclude the week.
The Vet Ally seminar was designed to “enhance the awareness, services and faculty pedagogy for our growing student veteran population,” according to Director of the Lewis University Department of Veterans Affairs and Recruitment, Roman Ortega. Ortega is a graduate of Lewis, as well as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army with 19 years of service. In addition, he currently serves in the Army Reserve.
“The biggest thing is continuing to make (veterans) feel welcome at our university,” said Ortega. “There is typically at least one veteran student in each class.”
Ortega acknowledged the differences between many of the university’s traditional population, and those who have served. It is not uncommon for veterans to have families of their own, as well as working jobs alongside going to school. This difference in age and experience can make it challenging for veterans to connect with their younger traditional college peers.
The Veterans ceremony was held Nov. 7 at St. Charles Borromeo and featured the Lewis chamber choir, the posting of the colors by the university color guard and an invocation by Father Dan Torson. Major Joshua Frye of the U.S. Army Reserve was the keynote speaker for the Veterans Day ceremony. Frye detailed his history of serving for the German army and the American army as a result of his dual-citizenship.
“I do know that support for veterans is not universal,” said Frye. “However, while this country might feel divided to many, in my experience we rally around the troops. Answering our nation's call is not for everyone. It takes distinguished men and women willing to put themselves in harm’s way.”
The ceremony concluded with representatives of the U.S. military singing the anthems for each branch and retiring of the colors.
“I feel really proud of the veterans we have here at Lewis,” said Dr. David Livingston, president of Lewis University. “It is humbling for us to have 600 veterans as part of our population.”
In the fall of 2014, Lewis had a veteran population of 464, a number that has now approached 600. Of those veterans, 84 percent are over the age of 24, according to the American Council on Education.
Ortega’s services are available to all veterans at Lewis at any time. To contact him, email email@example.com or call (815) 836-5339.