A large crowd of veterans, family, friends, and students gathered around PCC’s memorial wall for a ceremony commemorating past and present veterans for their service on the Tuesday before Veterans Day.
The ceremony began with a salute from the members of PCC Fencing Club. Then it was followed by a few introductions recognizing key VIPs who were present during the ceremony.
Among those recognized were Board of Trustees members Ross Selvidge and Linda Wah, new executive director of the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing Alex Boekelheide, Reverend Albert Cohen, and PCC psychology professor Harold “Doc” Martin.
Cohen, a Navy veteran of 70 years, gave a small speech and benediction.
“I’m really thankful to be part of a community that is represented here of veterans,” Cohen said. “The country survives because folks like you … You have made the decision to commit yourself to the future of this country.”
Martin, who was one of the main organizers of the ceremony, spoke after Cohen.
“I think the very least we can do is at least once or twice a year recognize and honor veterans for their services,” Martin said.
Martin believes that it is unfortunate that the nation has to create veterans every year. He is instead advocating for more peace.
“We owe it to every generation of veterans not to try and create more veterans but instead work with peace as much as possible,” Martin added.
Superintendent-President Dr. Rajen Vurdien was not able to make it to the ceremony. So Boekelheide spoke in place of him.
“Today the entire PCC community thanks our veteran students, faculty, and staff alike for their service and their sacrifice,” Boekelheide said. “Thanks to your brave efforts, we are all safer, stronger, and more secure.”
Boekelheide also mentioned that PCC’s Veteran Service Center has been recognized as one of the nation’s best. The school also earned “military friendly” status from GI Jobs for the fifth year in a row.
“PCC is committed to easing our veterans’ transition to civilian life and empowering their success in their college career,” Boekelheide added.
After Boekelheide, the keynote speaker, District 4 Commander of the Veteran Foreign Wars David Loera was finally introduced.
Before he began his speech, Loera asked the audience for a moment of silence to honor those soldiers whose lives were cut short.
“Today because of their selfishness and sacrifices our veterans shares the value and virtue upon which our nation was founded and bravely answered the call to preserve them,” Loera said. “We owe so much to today’s generation of great patriots and to those of the past as well.”
Loera expressed the importance of veterans getting the proper treatment.
“As Americans, we all equally share the responsibility to ensure that our veterans are cared for. That responsibility is owed to an extent to service members who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and especially to our wounded warriors,” Loera said. “Our veterans have earned the right to be treated with dignity and respect. And you can help make sure that happens by pushing American leaders to do the right thing when it comes to veterans.”
He also asked the audience to pray for and not forget the soldiers who are currently deployed all over the world.
“When the defenders of this nation returns home, you and me must be committed to ensuring they are able to obtain timely, adequate health care, and all they so justly deserve from the government,” Loera added.
The ceremony ended with PCC student and Navy veteran Yioma Chuta’s jazzy and soulful guitar rendition of the national anthem.
“I was excited to be able to play and show my support to my fellow veterans,” Chuta said.
One of the Veteran Resource Center worker and Marine veteran, Michael Enriquez, voiced his satisfaction with the ceremony.
“I thought it was great. It just feel so good to be surrounded by people that you can relate to,” Enriquez said. “We are all pretty patriotic I guess. And so it’s a good feeling to know that you are able to show that and be amongst people that feels the same way you do.”
Enriquez spoke in place of his fellow veterans about the message they want to send across.
“We are people too. Not just because we joined the military and went out to war. We don’t need to be treated as robots or something different,” Enriquez said. “We don’t want to come off as being entitled to everything, because we’re not. We did it as a service to our country, not to get anything in return.”