The Sidney Gelber Auditorium was packed with more than 200 people including veterans of war alongside service members to celebrate Veterans Day on Wednesday, November 6. The ceremony highlighted the sacrifices that veterans make in order to keep the country’s safety and freedom.
The hour-long ceremony started with the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band playing the armed forces salute for every division of the military service. Members stood up during their division and waved to the crowd. Derek Staudohar ’20, a member of the Veteran Affairs Committee, delivered the opening speech. “The ceremony this year was truly lovely. Every year since my freshman year, I’ve watched the audience grow in size, and seeing the auditorium almost completely full truly makes me proud to be a member of the Stony Brook community,” Staudohar said.
The colors were presented by the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Culper Battalion followed by the national anthem featuring Staff Sergeant Jennifer Lucas ‘09. Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Dr. Rick Gatteau, gave his welcome speech, touching upon the fact that citizens are able to exercise their right to vote because of them. “I truly hope that Stony Brook continues to be a place where students come and they learn and feel that we care about them. They know that they are here and they are going to make a big difference. So if there is anything we can do on behalf of our Division to support our students, we are going to do everything that we can because veterans are so important to everything we do at Stony Brook,” Dr. Gatteau said.
This year’s student speaker, Secretary of Veteran Affairs and US Air Force Veteran, Katherine Maier ‘20, shared her story on how she was able to find a place in Stony Brook after being discharged due to a physical ailment in 2018. She decided to return to school and get her Studio Arts degree in order to pursue her dream as an artist. Maier expressed how hard it was for her to transition back into regular life. “The new family and friends I’ve met and the support system around me will help me pursue new goals. I’ll accomplish them in the same way that I always have. Little goals met, overcome and leading to something bigger and better,” Maier said.
Maier’s speech was followed by the remarks of keynote speaker Dean Tufts, Vice President for Facilities and Services. Tufts completed a 30-year Navy career as part of the Civil Engineer Corp, the Navy and Marine Corps’ facilities experts. He called upon the veterans who served actively and asked them to stand so that everyone may see them. “Never compromise your values and don’t be afraid to lead. This world needs leaders, graduating leaders from Stony Brook. We are graduating leaders,” Tufts said.
The ceremony came to an end with the ROTC Culper Battalion retiring the colors. The crowd was directed to Ballroom A for a reception and a local military history exhibition provided by University Libraries. The exhibit was stretched from one end of the room to the other and contained photographs from veterans and war times. A table set up with the wine glass turned upside down honored the fallen veterans.
— Rabia Gursoy ‘21