CSM Salutes Student Veterans on Campus

Bill Needham

College’s Veterans Lounge Welcomes Visitors at Open House

As the country is poised to celebrate the contributions of its military veterans on Veterans Day November 11, the College of Southern Maryland wanted to show appreciation to its veterans – students, faculty and staff members — who have served in the armed forces.

A Veterans Day breakfast was held Nov. 9 at the Center for Business and Industry (BI) Building at the La Plata Campus. Among the speakers were CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried; Nicholus Steward, vice president of the CSM Student Veterans Organization (SVO); and Jeannine James, military spouse and CSM adjunct professor in the Communication, Arts and Humanities Division.

“It truly is an honor to represent the college and to be with you this morning,” Gottfried said. “I don’t think there is a more worthy group for the college to recognize and to celebrate for your service to our country.” He emphasized the college’s commitment to veterans, noting that CSM is one of the largest providers of educational services for current and former service members and their families in Maryland. “Whether we have 800 or a thousand going through our programs, every one of them is very important to us,” he said.

The college is approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Maryland Higher Education Commission, so that eligible veterans, service members and certain dependents can receive VA educational benefits for credit certificate and associate degree programs. CSM's outreach includes the SVO and a lounge where the student veterans can gather to study and socialize. Gottfried also noted the college’s hiring of additional veterans affairs coordinators to advise students.

“We want to make sure that our veterans receive the services they deserve,” Gottfried said. “Our veterans have done so much for our nation. I want to thank them all because they have made a difference; they have made our country safer. For those individuals who are not with us today, who have made the ultimate sacrifice, this country can never, ever thank them enough. Today’s event is a way to thank our veterans, thank our students, but you know, it shouldn’t be just today, it should be every single day.”

During the breakfast, a large screen at the front of the room featured photographs of the college’s student veterans and their families. The students were pictured both in uniform and on campus in various activities that show their transition from military life to being civilians.

Steward, who is a third-generation military veteran, served in the U.S. Army and spent time in Afghanistan. The now-CSM student told the audience about his family’s military background. His mother was a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, his father a 26-year veteran. His grandfathers and a few cousins also were in the military.

He said the college’s Veterans Day celebration this year wanted to include the contributions that families make in the lives of service members.

“While men and women are fighting overseas, military spouses manage the home life in addition to being concerned for their loved ones while they are away from home,” he said. “That is something we want to highlight this year.”

Steward then introduced the morning’s keynote speaker, James, who talked about her experiences as the wife of a 30-year member of the U.S. Air Force. She is also the mother of three children.

She said she chose the role of military spouse. “We are a lot of things, and we become a lot of things, too.” When someone is in charge of a household they become “an electrician, a contractor, a day care provider, a taxi driver,” James said. “We can fix anything, or so we think we can. We are there to support, and we are there to make sure our children’s lives and our husbands’ lives run smoothly,” she said. “Day to day, it’s always an adventure. We have to know how to keep a family together.”

She talked about the rewards, challenges and pitfalls of being a military spouse. Some spouses sacrifice careers to keep things steady on the home front.

James said there are many lessons she has learned on her journey. “First thing, is to live in the moment,” she said, adding, “Not in the would’ve, should’ve, could’ve.” She learned to improvise, adapt and overcome. Military spouses can “improvise anything. … We adapt with grace, or we try to. We adapt to situations that we might not want to be in, but we do, and we overcome. We overcome because we support our spouses, and we have to overcome because we don’t have a choice. Life is all about the journey, and not necessarily the destination. So we live for the journey. It doesn’t matter where we are as long as we are all together.”

Other guests in attendance included CSM alum Maryland Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Del. Edith Patterson, CSM Board of Trustees Chair Dorothea Holt Smith and Board of Trustees members Bradley Bates and Lois DiNatale. The St. Charles High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps presented the colors.

Bill Buffington, a founding member of the CSM SVO, presented a plaque that will hang in the veterans lounge. The plaque is inscribed with a poem Buffington wrote and is a gift from the chapter’s founding members Buffington; Mike Moses, former SVO president; Bettie Phillips-Jackson, SVO secretary; and CSM professor Ed Moroney, advisor to the SVO.

“Since I’ve been a student here at CSM,” Steward said, “they’ve been a great support to me as I transition back into the classroom.”

An open house followed the breakfast in the newly renovated lounge. The space in the Learning Resources (LR) Building, Room 103 has been recently renovated with a grant from the Student Veterans of America and The Home Depot Foundation through the Vet Center Initiative.   

For more information about CSM veteran and military support services, email veteransbenefits@csmd.edu or visit http://www.csmd.edu/student-services/veteran-military-support-services/.