Veterans Day celebration at SMC

Lorena Brothers was 17 when she joined the military, a semester into college, after graduating high school a year early. After serving three years stateside for the Air Force, she was deployed to Afghanistan as a medical technician. Her task was to enter the field and pick up casualties during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Brothers, now 22, was one of the student veterans that spoke at last week’s annual Santa Monica College Veterans Day celebration, hosted by the Student Veterans Association on campus and the Veterans’ Resources Center on the main quad.

The event started off with brothers Joshua and Jeremy Bauer – both veterans – with a rendition of the national anthem sung by Joshua, and a welcome from Jeremy, president of the Student Veterans Association, an invocation and four speeches from different SMC student veterans.

John Scott, manager of SMC’s Veterans Resource Center, said, “The point is to celebrate Veterans Day, have student veterans talk about what it means to them, and then have a moment of silence. We’ve started to become a lot more pro-active with our veterans, staff and faculty on campus. So we’re really trying to integrate a sort of holistic feeling of getting everybody to support the veterans because we’ve seen a huge increase in veteran’s in the past few years."

In 2003, Scott was a student at SMC, after serving in the Marine Corps.

Christopher Bellingham is now a chemistry major at SMC, but he served in the Army from June 2006 to March 2010. “When I think of a Veteran, a few words come to mind: Pride, strength, honor and wisdom. Someone who may carry physical or mental scars, yet has the tenacity and fortitude to carry their head high,” Bellingham said during his address.

Brothers said, “It is one of the greatest honors to be able to stand here today and call myself a veteran. Not only a veteran, but a female veteran.”

To Brothers, the help she received from the organizations on campus was vital to her transition back into the civilian world. “As any veteran would know, the transition from military life to civilian life is not an easy one. But thanks to the veterans and staff at the Veterans Resource Center, the Student Veterans Association, transition is made easier,” said Brothers.

Over the last three years, the Veteran’s Resource Center has grown from having around 125 to 500 student veteran members. In addition to counseling, the Veteran’s Resource Center provides help to veterans transitioning from military life to student life.

“It’s really become sort of a support group for them. You know, a lot of times when vets go to a college campus it’s new and a totally different world. A lot of times they’re between a 25- 30. Sitting in the classroom with a freshman is sort of odd,” said Michael Tuitasi, vice president of student affairs.

Though she had originally planned on working in the medical field, after her time in the military, Brothers has no desire to do medical work anymore. After SMC, Brothers will be transferring to Loyola Marymount University to study environmental law.

“Hardships aside, one of the best things that came out of serving were the bonds I formed with the other military soldiers. It is their legacy that I’m proud to share with my fellow veterans on this special day where we thank all of those brave men and women that have answered mother liberty’s call to defend her honor,” Brothers said.

Attendees had a chance to reflect upon Brothers’ words during the moment of silence that concluded last week’s event.

The Student Veterans Association meets every Thursday at 11:15 a.m. in the Liberal Arts building, room 136.

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