Photo by Phil Carter.
Photo by Phil Carter.

Several generations of United States veterans, from World War II soldiers to present-day service members home from the Iraq War, turned out for a memorial event Wednesday. The event brought tears to the eyes of some of the nation’s proudest service members.

The event, held at Stevenson College, included a dinner sponsored by the Memorial Officers Association of America (MOAA) in honor of America’s men and women in the military. 

One veteran stressed that men and women of the military protect many of the country’s essential freedoms and liberties.

“People think that the U.S. is great because we have a constitution and a free economy and that’s true, but there’s a prerequisite to that,” said Sam Meade, a veteran who is now the district attorney for Santa Cruz County. “People take it for granted, the way of life that we have … and [there] is a steep price to pay for it and that’s why Memorial Day is important.”

Vice chancellor of student affairs Felicia McGinty accepted a flag on behalf of UC Santa Cruz in honor of the outstanding support the university provides to its student veterans.

“It’s great that we have an event for veterans like this, especially on this campus here in Santa Cruz,” said Muyen Peng, a 25-year-old UCSC student and veteran for the Army Reserve. 

“I am really pleased with how I see this organization going here,” said Harry Vaughn, president of the Santa Cruz chapter of MOAA. “I understand that they’re ahead of all the other University of California campuses as far as looking out for veterans and getting them escalated.”

The event was aimed, in part, at raising awareness about the services now being offered to veteran students under the United States GI Bill. Under the new bill, veterans are exempt from tuition costs at public universities. They are also eligible to receive additional financial support to cover other expenses.

The event was open to interested students and visitors. Colin Southwood, a graduate student studying computer science, turned out to support his roommate Daniel Wilson, a student veteran who organized the event. 

“To be honest, in my younger years I didn’t appreciate my rights as much as I should have,” Southwood said. “It’s not as if they weren’t given to us without paying a heavy price.”

Wilson’s goal for the event was to show UCSC’s hospitality toward veterans, despite a campus policy that prohibits military recruiters from approaching students.

“We felt that UCSC had a bad rap for not supporting the troops and not being veteran-friendly,” Wilson said. “And we wanted to show people that’s not the case, that UCSC’s a very veteran-friendly campus.”

“You have to separate the war from the warrior,” Wilson continued. “That’s pretty much what it comes down to. We’re honoring veterans who served. We’re not here to advocate for war or to push any agenda related to the military or the war itself. That’s it.”