Orange County’s First Four-Year University Honors Its Graduating Veteran Students And Challenges Overcome
COSTA MESA, Calif., May 2, 2016 – Vanguard University’s graduates, along with their families and friends gathered at a traditional, but reflective, Veterans Challenge Coin Ceremony. The ceremony honored 11 graduating veterans of the Class of 2016 on Thursday, April 28. The event was held in Vanguard’s newest academic building on campus, in a courtyard dedicated to veterans and their service to the United States.
The program included a welcome from Brian Burlingame, veterans resource coordinator at Vanguard University, an invocation by Pastor Frank Orzio, a Vietnam veteran, Sgt. Marine Corps (Ret.) and two-time Purple Heart recipient, and a student address by Christopher Merkle, graduating student veteran and vice president of the Vanguard University Student Veterans Club.
“Our Challenge Coin Ceremony provides an opportunity for us to honor each student’s service, while celebrating their academic success,” said Burlingame. “It highlights a significant milestone in this season of their lives. They’ve served our nation with great distinction, and we owe them our very best each day.”
After serving 10 years in the U.S. Marines, ceremony speaker, Christopher Merkle, enrolled at Vanguard University, and attempted to return to civilian life, when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) took over. He reached out for help, and is now being treated with a virtual-reality program developed at USC. The new technology, called Bravemind, was developed by Dr. Skip Rizzo at the University of Southern California’s Institute of Creative Technologies, and is being administered at Veterans Administration hospitals, among other 60 sites.
The ceremony also recognized each graduating student veteran with the presentation of a unique challenge coin. Challenge coins date back to WWI and are popular throughout all branches of the military today—most military members carry at least one coin with them at all times to display pride and morale. The coin Vanguard University presented on Thursday to the Class of 2016 have a picture of the U.S. flag, a flag of the graduate’s branch of service, and a challenge to “act justly, walk humbly, and love mercy with commitment, honor and excellence” on one side of the coin. On the other side of the coin is the Vanguard University logo and with the words “truth, virtue, and service.”
Vanguard University’s Veterans Center engages student veterans in their pursuit of academic and personal success. Vanguard University proudly participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a GI Education Enhancement Program that provides an agreement between Vanguard and the Veterans Administration (VA). Vanguard’s Veterans Center provides students with specialized resources such as the campuses counseling center, disability services, tutoring center, writing center and career center.
For more information on additional upcoming 2016 Commencement events at Vanguard University, visit www.vanguard.edu/commencement.
MEDIA CONTACT: Amanda Irving
About Vanguard University
Vanguard University (VU) is a regionally ranked, private, Christian university of liberal arts and professional studies. Located ten minutes from Newport Beach and an hour from Los Angeles, Vanguard equips students for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service. Vanguard is committed to academic excellence, boasting small class sizes that are designed to cultivate lasting professor-mentor relationships that enhance the learning process. The 2016 U.S. News & World Report ranked Vanguard #13 in the Regional Colleges (West) category, #10 for Best Colleges for Veterans, and #19 for economic diversity. The Princeton Review ranked Vanguard a 2016 “Best in the West” regional college. Accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, Vanguard offers more than 30 degrees and certificates through its undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies programs. Please visit www.vanguard.edu