Celebrations carve out space for veterans

SF State kicked off Veteran’s Day celebrations Wednesday with tabling by veteran’s groups on campus. With activities planned throughout the remainder of the week, students have several ways to honor and support veterans on campus.

A crowd of SF State veterans and guests listen as Sean Scharf, Veterans Club president, speaks during the VETS Corner Anniversary celebration at the Garden of Remembrance at SF State Thursday, Nov. 5. (Melissa Minton / Xpress)

A crowd of SF State veterans and guests listen as Sean Scharf, Veterans Club president, speaks during the VETS Corner Anniversary celebration at the Garden of Remembrance at SF State Thursday, Nov. 5. (Melissa Minton / Xpress)

SF State has a sizable veteran population, according to SF State’s Veteran Certifying Official and Program Coordinator, Ben Yang. Yang said in an email that there are 421 “self-reported” veterans on campus. The actual number of veterans is higher because some have either run out of benefits, do not use benefits or do not identify themselves as a veteran, Yang said.

Upcoming events to recognize veterans included the third anniversary of the school’s Veterans Corner Thursday, Nov. 5, and participation in a citywide parade Sunday Nov. 8.

Every year between 40 and 60 of SF State’s veterans march in the parade held in downtown San Francisco, according to Ryan Beasley, a student who served overseas for army communications in Germany and served three tours in Iraq. Beasley said Veteran’s Corner, where he is currently employed, leads the campus’ participation in the parade and offers SF State veterans help in applying for classes and benefits available to them through the Veteran’s Association.

“We have events all throughout the year,” Beasley said. “We have Veteran’s Association workshops where we talk to veterans about job opportunities, and weekend activities that bring (the veterans) together.”

In 2014 Beasley served as vice president of the SF State’s Veterans Club, which he said has designated areas for veterans on campus to provide a safe and comfortable space for them to spend time together.

“I think it’s a sense of community, so you’re not just one person,” Beasley said. “It’s a huge transition from military lifestyle to civilian lifestyle, and the vets lounge reconfirms that you’re not alone.”

The flag of the United States and the flag of California are raised during the singing of the U.S. National Anthem at the VETS Corner Anniversary celebration at the Garden of Remembrance Thursday, Nov. 5. (Melissa Minton / Xpress)

The flag of the United States and the flag of California are raised during the singing of the U.S. National Anthem at the VETS Corner Anniversary celebration at the Garden of Remembrance Thursday, Nov. 5. (Melissa Minton / Xpress)

A lot of students who are veterans are older than other students on campus, with many in their mid-20’s to early 30’s, according to Beasley. He said the club helps foster a sense of community.

“Unlike other clubs, veterans are different beast altogether because it runs a wide spectrum of ages and stages in life,” said Veterans Club President Sean Scharf, who served from 2005-2006 in the U.S. Marine Corps as a light armored reconnaissance crewman.

SF State alumni Stephanie Vazquez, who served in the Army from 2006 to 2012, deploying to Iraq with an infantry unit in 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said she felt lucky to find the veteran’s organization on campus because coming to school after being in the military was the scariest thing she ever did.

“I had no issues going to Iraq,” she said. “But coming back to school I was terrified. There’s a lot of guidance in the military, in college you’re on your own.”

When Vazquez first joined the Veteran’s Club, she was one of 15 members, and since then, the number has been growing.

“I think it is important for students to know that there are veterans here at SF State,” Yang said. “Being in the military you are given your orders and told what to do and where to be during every minute in your career.”

Veterans face a stigma when returning to civilian life especially in a liberal area like San Francisco, according to Veterans Club Outreach Coordinator Daniel Mao, who served from 2006-2012 in the Marine Corps. A lot of the veterans were young and didn’t know what they were getting into when they first enlisted, Mao said.

“Even as veterans some of us don’t agree with what we did. When I signed up I wanted to be a hero, I didn’t know any better,” according to Mao who said he later realized fighting in a war didn’t make him a hero.

Ben Yang, SF State's Veteran Certifying Official and Program Coordinator, speaks before a crowd of SF State veterans and guests during the VETS Corner Anniversary celebration at the Garden of Remembrance at SF State Thursday, Nov. 5. (Melissa Minton/ Xpress)

Ben Yang, SF State’s Veteran Certifying Official and Program Coordinator, speaks before a crowd of SF State veterans and guests during the VETS Corner Anniversary celebration at the Garden of Remembrance at SF State Thursday, Nov. 5. (Melissa Minton/ Xpress)

Throughout the week, members of SF State’s veteran’s organization will table in the quad to increase community awareness on issues impacting veterans, Yang said.

“A lot of vets would appreciate civilian students trying to understand how hard the difference between military and civilian life is,” Mao said.

The organization sells two different colored ribbons to be worn during the week– yellow for those who would like to show support for the troops and purple for veterans so others can identify and acknowledge them. To show their gratitude, eateries around campus will offer veteran’s discounts during the week, Yang said.

Students wishing to recognize and support veteran classmates can find a schedule for events at SF State can be found on the Campus Memo from Oct. 30.

“As much as we need to be welcomed in the student body we want the student body to be welcome around us,” Scharf said, “We want the student body to see us as any other group, as a resource they can always use.”

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