Editors Note: Check out the veterans events at the end of the article.
By Tori Elgin
“I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
These are the first words of a new chapter in the lives of certain women and men in the United States of America. Not all people can pledge to be protectors of the nation, bearers of true faith and true allegiance, and all that those words imply.
These are the words of The Oath of Enlistment for the armed forces of the United States of America, words that lead to the protection of our country and to the many sacrifices that are made to protect our country. How many people volunteer for a situation when they do not know the outcome? Some women and men will leave to serve and not return.
November 11 is Veterans Day, the day the United States has set aside to honor U.S. veterans and victims of all wars. In the Brazos Valley, there are more than 10,000 veterans with some 1,200 of those enrolled at Texas A&M University.
There are many local events throughout November in celebration of local veterans and in remembrance of those who did not come home. There also are many local organizations dedicated to helping veterans year round.
Brazos Valley Cares is a newer local organization that seeks to help veterans. The organization has given more than $60,000 to deserving local women and men. According to Chairman Don Lewis, Brazos Valley Cares is comprised of an all-volunteer board that accepts applications from veterans and then votes on the applications received based on the needs explained. The mission is to help the veteran who made the application directly or by connecting them to other people or organizations that can provide the needed support.
Every year, Brazos Valley Cares hosts the annual fundraiser “Steak Your Support” dinner. Lewis says funds can be used for veterans who have simply hit some hard luck and need a second chance. That might include help starting a business or with help meeting everyday costs of living. Regardless of the need, Brazos Valley Cares seeks to help them, says Lewis.
Though Brazos Valley Cares responds to all veterans, the organization has accumulated many statistics about student veterans. According to Brazos Valley Cares, 40 percent of student veterans enrolled at Texas A&M University have families. Thirty percent of student veterans are still serving in the Reserves or the National Guard; because of that, they must leave school for at least one weekend a month. These students also miss school often when called for special duty.
Sixty percent of the student veterans are over the age of 24 when they begin studying at Texas A&M University. Most do not have the option of living in a dorm with a meal plan. Instead, they have to pay for rent, utilities, food, a car and other expenses that a traditional student may not have to pay while attending school.
The Veteran Resource & Support Center is located on the Texas A&M University campus. This organization provides resources to current and former military members as well as dependents and survivors who are pursuing higher education at Texas A&M University. With more than 500 contacts, the center has the ability to help all veterans, though the specific focus is on student veterans.
Every month, this organization helps more than 200 prospective student veterans. That help may last a day or years. Col. Jerry Smith, director of the VRSC, says help ranges “from application to vocation” through more than 37 programs. Besides helping current students and aiding prospective students in the application process, VRSC representatives also meet more than 50 times a year with employers about hiring veterans after graduation.
Some of the 37 programs include the Aggie Veteran Network, PAVE (Peer Advising for Veteran Education), Student Veteran recognition, Equine Riding Therapy, and many more. The VRSC has helped to provide more than 40 Aggie rings to student vets and also works to provide things like sporting game tickets to veterans. A phrase that is routinely incorporated in VRSC events is, “serve well those who have served.”
It is society’s obligation to welcome and to recognize veterans, and to serve them in return for how they have served this country, says Gerry Hince, a local veteran and a member of the American Legion Post 159.
“Veterans made an obligation to the country when they took the vow to serve our country. It is a double-edged sword; we have an obligation to serve the veterans ourselves when they come home,” says Gerry Hince. “It is nice to know that they serve a country that is free and they can come home to people that can take care of them.”
Her husband, John Hince, is also a veteran. “Our country would not be where it is today without [veterans], and it can only stay this way with people continuing to serve,” says John Hince.
Show Your Support with these Veterans Day Events:
Vietnam Vets of America
There will be a ceremony in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Downtown Bryan beginning at 2:30 p.m. John Millholland, an Air Force pilot who was shot down over Vietnam, will speak.
The Traveling Vietnam Wall
In addition to the Traveling Vietnam Wall exhibit, Lest We Forget, the Museum of the American GI will be hosting special Veterans Day activities.
Veterans Day Ceremony
Beginning at 11 a.m., a ceremony will be held at the Louis L. Adam Memorial Plaza of Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station featuring Pat Patterson speaking on veterans affairs.
Veterans Day Partnership with Spoons Yogurt
Visit any Spoons Yogurt in the BCS area, mention that you are with the Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to BVVM.
Red White and You Job Fair
There are multiple locations for this event, held from 12 noon to 2 p.m.