Veterans returning from war find Vanguard’s Veterans Resource Center
Despite the threat of rain, more than one hundred people gathered at Vanguard University’s Veterans Courtyard of Honor on Friday, November 9, 2012 to pay homage to the many veterans who have served our country.
The celebration began with the Invocation, given by Chaplain of the Student Veterans Club, Rory Self. Following a heartfelt welcome from Vanguard University President, Dr. Carol Taylor, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher handed well-deserved awards to Freedom Committee of Orange County’s Jack Hammett USN (ret.) and Vanguard Veterans Resource Center President, Ssgt. Gabriel Corona.
If the act of courage these veterans have shown by virtue of having served our country wasn’t already apparent, it certainly was after hearing Keynote Speaker and Vice President of the Students Veterans Club, Chris Kupitz, recount his experience serving eight years in the US Army, including two Iraq deployments. Attendees were quickly brought to a place of sobering reflection as Kupitz explained the events that initially led him to answer the call to serve. A stark picture of a journey that began in 2001 unfolded as Kupitz bravely shared his painful struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and battling depression resulting from the tragic news of his best friend’s suicide. The fortuitous opportunity to leave combat and work alongside top military leaders in creating lasting government processes in Iraq was something he believes helped save him from following in his best friend’s footsteps.
“I was the most decorated soldier in my command from that first tour having been awarded the Bronze Star, a second NCO ribbon for completing BNOC, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal II,” Kupitz said of returning home from his second deployment. “But I felt like a broken and lost soldier returning home to the states.”
Kupitz’s experience returning home highlights the realities that men and women who return home from war commonly face.
“When our soldiers are returning home broken, confused, frustrated, angry, and unable to fully comprehend or cope with the residual torment of a war zone they survived, what we need to provide our veterans with is a loving, safe environment, that allows them to process everything they have endured; a place that believes in their future, supports their needs and is actively pursuing them, before they become another statistic,” said Kupitz.
A shining example of the place Kupitz describes is what he – and many other student veterans – have found at the Veterans Resource Center at Vanguard University. Founded in 2010 by a group of Vanguard student veterans, the Veterans Resource Center supports veterans by providing academic planning, financial advisement, and resources for professional, personal and spiritual development.
“Many of the 30,000 veterans who return to California each year experience challenges when transitioning from military to civilian life”, says Brent Theobald, Director of Government Relations at Vanguard University. “Education is the best transitional bridge for veterans because it provides hope for a better life through increased employability, higher income potential, and restored purpose through self-discovery.”
Among those transitioning, it is estimated that 30,000 to 300,000 veterans nationally will be affected by invisible wounds of war, such as PTSD and other related mental disorders including traumatic brain injury as a result of the US engagement on the Global War on Terrorism. A December 2011 Pew Research Center study found 27% of returning veterans said they had a difficult time transitioning to civilian life, up 44% among veterans who served since 2001.
“There are a lot of choices that our soldiers can make with their benefits but you would be hard pressed to find a school that offers veterans more opportunities to be involved and to succeed than here at Vanguard,” said Kupitz winding down his speech. “My wish is that more colleges and universities will model themselves after Vanguard by putting the programs into place to leave no veteran behind.”
The Veterans Day Celebration ended on a jubilant note, with veterans standing proudly as the Vanguard Saxophone Quartet played the Armed Forces Salute medley including The Caissons Song (Army), Marine’s Hymn, Anchors Aweigh (Navy), The U.S. Air Force song, and Semper Paratus (Coast Guard).
For more information on the Veterans Resource Center at Vanguard University, please visit http://www.vanguard.edu/veterans/about/.
About Vanguard University
Vanguard University is a private, Christian, comprehensive university of liberal arts and professional studies equipping students for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service. The U.S. News & World Report has ranked Vanguard among the best baccalaureate colleges in the west in their 2012-2013 rankings of colleges and universities and The Princeton Review named Vanguard a 2012-2013 “Best in the West” College. Vanguard is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). www.vanguard.edu.