Event honored President Knapp for his support of veterans during his tenure leading the university.
By B. L. Wilson
More than 150 George Washington University students and others gathered at Kogan Plaza Saturday morning before setting out to perform community service around the D.C. area—all aimed at supporting U.S. military veterans.
It was the sixth annual Veteran Day of Service organized by the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service in partnership with the Office for Veteran Students and Military Affairs and GW Vets.
“The idea is to connect military and community service,” said Amy Cohen, the executive director of the Nashman Center. “Research shows that one of the most effective ways for reintegrating veterans into civilian society is to engage them in community service.
“A lot of folks in the military make great leaders for community service because they know how to organize a project and make things happen.”
GW veteran students were joined by members of the College Democrats and Republicans, fraternity and sorority groups, Presidential Administrative Fellows and others in addition to volunteers from off-campus organizations such as AmeriCorps and a VFW Post.
After a presentation of the colors and a rousing rendition of the national anthem by student veteran Anthony Evans, civic engagement coordinator Matt Basista told the gathering, “On days like today we bind ourselves together through acts that revive our communities and build crosscutting relationships and service.”
GW has been named among Military Times’ “Best for Vets” universities since 2010 and among G.I. Jobs’ “Military-Friendly” institutions since 2009.
Mr. Basista thanked George Washington President Steven Knapp for his generous support of the military and called upon the president of GW Veterans Yannick Baptiste to present a special gift to Dr. Knapp.
It was a “cajon,” a Peruvian box-shaped drum that was emblazoned with the logos of the university’s three military student organizations.
Dr. Knapp told the gathering that it was in Kogan Plaza in 2009 that GW became the first university in the region to join the Yellow Ribbon Program, a benefit under the post 9/11 GI Bill that covers the tuition of veteran graduate students. He noted that retired Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a strong supporter of the military, was present along with then-Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth, M.A. ’92, now a U.S. senator from Illinois.
“Senator Duckworth has been a very important member of our community for a long time. She is actually a university alumna,” Dr. Knapp said. Ms. Duckworth was the first recipient of the university’s Colin Powell Public Service Award and will be the university’s 2017 Commencement speaker.
He said the presence of student veterans who come to the university with different life experiences serves as an example to younger students.
“They have already exhibited through their service to the nation, and in the way they continue the mission here, they become role models to other students. I think they’ve added a unique dimension to our university of which we are very proud. We’re glad to have them.”
And with that, Dr. Knapp gave the crowd a demonstration of his skills on the cajon.
The volunteers then split into groups to head to the Armed Services Retirement Home,, the National Mall and other sites to interact with veterans, help with recycling, pitch in on beautification projects and put together care packages for soldiers overseas.
As GW senior Kazuma Engelkermer, a Navy ROTC, prepared to climb above a yellow school bus, he explained, “We stress service. You’re going into military service. You’re serving others while serving the community too. What better way to serve the community than serve with and for veterans at the same time?”