The national veterans’ organization Vietnow presented the GW Vets student organization with the Vietnow Award of Excellence and a banner featuring the names of the more than 2,000 soldiers who died during Operation Iraqi Freedom at George Washington’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony in Kogan Plaza on Friday.
The ceremony, featuring remarks by President Steven Knapp, GW Vets President Scott Disney, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Robert Reichner and Vietnow President Rich Sanders, concluded the university’s first Veterans Awareness Week, held Nov. 7-11.
At the Veterans Day Ceremony, Dr. Knapp said veterans have been an important part of George Washington since its inception; the university is named after the nation’s most famous veteran, and it enrolled the first recipient of the 1944 G.I. Bill—Don A. Balfour.
Dr. Knapp also highlighted the university’s deep commitment to veterans. George Washington is one of the leading participants in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Between GW and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs' contributions, graduates and undergraduates who are Yellow Ribbon qualified can attend GW for free in nearly every program. This year, more than 360 GW student veterans are participating in the program. There are approximately 700 student-veterans and dependants using the GI Bill on campus.
“We’re very grateful to all of the men and women who have done so much to preserve our freedom and make our nation the great nation that it is,” said Dr. Knapp. “We’ve also come to appreciate the fact here at George Washington that our veterans, who have devoted themselves and risked their lives for the ideals of service to our nation, continue to be engaged in service once they arrive at our university.”
“When they come here…they bring a maturity and a sense of commitment that I think is an inspiration and a leadership model for all of our students across the university,” he added.
Mr. Reichner—who received the U.S. Department of State Award for Heroism for his actions during the evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Brazzaville, Congo, in 1997—spoke about the importance of thanking veterans and loved ones, telling the audience that Veterans Day is a day of remembrance and a time for “reflection on who you are, where you are and what you will become.”
In his remarks, Mr. Sanders described the unique connection veterans have with one another, noting the bond between members of GW Vets. “That bond is something you’ll remember for the rest of your lives,” he said.
Mr. Sanders then awarded Mr. Disney the banner, which Mr. Disney accepted on behalf of GW Vets. The banner was made thanks to the advocacy of Georgie Carter Krell, mother of Bruce W. Carter, who died in the Vietnam War when he threw himself on a live grenade to protect his fellow soldiers. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
“It’s certainly an honor for GW veterans to be able to take care of this banner that honors our fallen brethren,” said Mr. Sanders, who concluded the ceremony by thanking the audience for their support of GW veterans. A barbecue followed the ceremony.
Hosted by the Office of Veterans Service, Veterans Awareness Week included movie screenings and panels featuring GW veterans, remarks by D-Day Veteran Roger Neighborgall and Army Col. Charles W. Hoge, and a Veterans Day of Service.
“I was really glad to see so many members of our GW community at our events during the week, and especially at the ceremony,” said Mary Waring, outreach coordinator for George Washington’s Office of Veteran Services. “It really means a lot to our veterans to see the support that George Washington has for them on campus. We are truly grateful to have such a welcoming environment for veterans at GW.”