Events mark Veterans Day with substance and style
The Military Community Services family on the Saint Michael’s College campus made the most of Veterans Day this past Saturday (and in days leading up to it) with a special film screening, a guest speaker/dinner gala in Dion Center, and displays showcasing an impressive network of supports, opportunities and programs that benefit and honor veterans.
In a campus communication about this year’s events, Lance S. Jandreau ’18 — a Saint Michael’s Army ROTC Cadet (via UVM program) and president of Student Veterans of America/Saint Michael’s College Chapter – described and reflected on the significance of the weekend’s major activities as “attempts to bring more recognition and celebration/honor to Veteran’s Day.”
“This year is one of new leaps and bounds for the club in which we are moving towards multiple events for the campus to partake in, in order to spread the word about different issues that veterans and active soldiers deal with mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually,” Jandreau said, noting that veterans have been “an integral part of our modern campus and an even larger influence of Saint Michael’s history.”
First of this year’s events during the week leading up to Veterans Day was a November 9 (Thursday) screening of the film Almost Sunrise, which touched on many of those issues in a though-provoking way. This movie was awarded best film by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It follows the recovery of two veterans who set off on an approximately 2,100 mile ruck march from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Los Angeles, California, marching for their own mental health, but also to build awareness around the issue of not just PTSD, but the realization of a larger problem affecting soldiers coming home — moral injuries — where both lead to the high rates of suicide within the veteran population.
Moral injury is a new concept within the world of philosophy and psychotherapy and has become a hot topic when discussing the issues of PTSD in soldiers and veterans, said Jandreau, and Almost Sunrise conceptualizes the battle inside of the head of someone who suffers from a moral injury, the role community plays in helping the individual overcome their hardship, and sheds light on the topics that many struggle to convey in simple dialogue.
For the student/faculty/alumni panel discussion that followed the film in McCarthy Arts Center, student veterans partnered with the award-winning student mental-health awareness group Active Minds and the Residence Halls Association in sponsoring the panel (with Landreau moderating) of student veteran Chris Boutin, Fr. Michael Carter ’12 SSE; Michael Olsen (a faculty veteran);, and Valerie Pallotta, the mother of a Vermont Guard Afghanistan veteran, Josh Pallotta, who struggled with mental health issues before his 2014 suicide
On Veterans Day itself – Saturday, November 11, the featured events began with the Second Annual Saint Michael’s College Military Community Gallery Luncheon, “celebrating our military tradition, our present student military community and our future. A lunch buffet was followed by networking amid a gallery of displays about Saint Michael’s military history, culminating with a 3 p.m. talk titled “Overcoming Adversity: An Army Officer’s Account,” featuring CPT (ret.) Eivind Forseth, U.S. Army. Forseth’s talk surrounded the ideas of transition out of the military into the civilian world, overcoming adversity and the importance of community support on the college campus.
Jandreau said the talk was all about what Saint Michael’s College stands for — community support and individual drive to overcome any problems thrown at us. We are all college students trying to make it through and we must recognize the different backgrounds of all of those around us. With veterans being a huge part to the community and history of the school, we believe this event was a great way to allow students a look into the life of service members returning to school and the struggles that may come with it.”
Both the movie and talk were open to the public with Forseth’s Saturday conversation and the preceding luncheon and displays attracting a number of military alumni from Saint Michael’s College’s past.
Miranda Keir, wife of one of the Saint Michael’s student veterans, said Saturday’s Gallery Luncheon with speaker “was such a meaningful way to celebrate my husband and his fellow veterans in a show of appreciation for all the work they have all done and continue to do throughout their military careers. It was also a wonderful way to connect with our local military community, something that is harder to do as a military family living in rural Vermont.” Keir thanked the Student Veterans and College “for hosting this wonderful event.”
Ken O’Connell, the College’s coordinator of military community services, said organizers of the weekend activities beyond student veterans included students who are cadets in AFROTC along with the wives of some student veterans.
Father Ray Doherty, SSE, of the campus Edmundite religious community and a Marine veteran, offered “a great Veterans Day blessing.” said O’Connell, who also spoke to the group about “the nuts and bolts of initiatives our office is working on for better access and basic supports for the academic success of Student Veterans: Housing, accessibility issues for students with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), pathways to a Saint Michael’s four-year degree from a CCV’s associates degree.”
He said that the speaker, Forseth, “really connected the need for networking, mentoring and professional development in moving forward with your life and opening up opportunities that may not be there if you were on the couch being awesome at video games. He illustrated this through stories of his life’s journey.”
O’Connell appreciated that the speaker’s conversation with the audience “was lively and engaging, so much so that folks stayed after just to hear more. He also stressed the importance of programs like ours that support and connect veterans through community programs, local and national and that are focused on academic success and students paths beyond graduation.”
He said alumni veteran Dick Lorenz ’64 was also in attendance and assisted by loaning some artifacts from the National Guard Museum.
Looking ahead, O’Connell said he also is hoping to help Saint Michael’s SVA members attend the SVA National Conference in San Antonio, TX this January.