SMC gives veterans Thanksgiving feast
Francisco Munoz spent Thanksgiving 2012 in Afghanistan with his fellow soldiers. Although sharing a holiday dinner with his unit felt like a family gathering, he relished the feeling of having a Thanksgiving meal back home in the United States. On Thursday, Munoz and other veterans who attend Santa Monica College were treated to an early Thanksgiving feast courtesy of the Veteran's Resource Center.
"It's definitely comfortable to be here and share this experience," said Munoz.
The lunch took place in the skybox of the physical education building. Although the room reserved for the occasion was small, the group was big. A sense of camaraderie filled the air as veterans ate turkey, mashed potatoes, salad and yams while chatting about life and their daily routine at SMC.
"This is a place where all of us are veterans and can share stories and relate to our backgrounds," Munoz noted.
Shaphan Koresland, an Associated Students representative at the event, is a veteran himself who served in the Marine Corps in places like Japan and Pakistan.
"These guys come from all over the country," Koresland said. "They don't have any family here. This gives them a sense of family. We're all brothers and sisters."
Linda Sinclair, the faculty leader of the VRC, was also present at the lunch helping out with every aspect from welcoming veterans to serving plates.
"We had one veteran who told us he hadn't had a Thanksgiving meal in four years," Sinclair said. "Some of the vets might be dealing with isolation. They might not be comfortable with being out with big crowds."
Sinclair emphasized events like these are meant to make veterans feel welcome as they adjust to civilian life. Some veterans are a little older than other SMC students and find it hard to adjust to an environment where students fresh out of high school who bring somewhat immature, rowdy classroom attitudes. This can conflict with some veterans who are returning from a world of total discipline.
Veteran Kristina Catuiza spoke about the need for this sort of community activity, allowing people to socialize.
"When I came bac,k I didn't really talk to people," she said. "People here have things in common, being a veteran.
"There's not a lot of female veterans I could communicate with," she added. "There aren't a lot of girls I can click with. Especially at this school, a lot of them are younger. I'm 29; some are 22 and haven't had that life experience yet."
Jamaine Lindsay was in the army and toured in Iraq and Afghanistan. After returning from those far off war zones, he appreciated the support being given by SMC.
"It feels good," Lindsay said. "You know California is so liberal, you find some anti-war, anti-veterans type people. So it's nice to see this support and appreciation."
Sitting next to Lindsay was Ror Peace, a Marine Corps veteran who also served in Iraq.
"I didn't even know about this until I checked my email," Peace said enthusiastically. "The food is actually very good. Sometimes at these things, they give you something that was just slapped together, but here, the food is really good."