Radford honors veterans with special ceremony and networking event
The Radford University family united this week to honor and celebrate our nation's veterans.
On campus, Veterans Day - which was observed on Nov. 12 - began with a breakfast networking event for student and faculty veterans in McConnell Library. There, Deanna Mabe, director of the university’s Military Resource Center, and several other university representatives were available to answer questions and provide information to student veterans.
“They [student veterans] are a unique group,” Mabe explained. “They are coming [to the university] from a community of support, and they’re often nervous about the transition from the military to civilian life. We are here to help ease that transition and provide a sense of camaraderie on campus.”
United States Air Force veteran and Radford University faculty member Jim Newman talked with several students during the event. He has connected with dozens of student veterans throughout the years, both as an associate professor in the university’s College of Education and Human Development and as the advisor to the university’s chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA).
“I work with a different group [of student veterans] every year. They’re a diverse mix,” he said. “We troubleshoot together. I give advice. Helping them transition is huge. Civilian life doesn’t work like the military. There are different expectations and different forms of communication.”
Newman called the university’s student veterans “highly-motivated and hard-working.” They include sophomore Mark Shelton, vice president of the university’s chapter of the SVA and a veteran of the U.S. Army. Shelton transferred to Radford this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and eventually, a master’s in social work. He aspires to be a counselor to veterans, he said.
“I served my time in uniform and my service will continue out of uniform,” he said. “I will serve my brothers and my sisters who stood with me to answer the call, because that is what it means to serve.”
Following the networking event, the campus community gathered in the Hurlburt Student Center for the Veterans Day ceremony.
The event, organized annually by the university’s Military Resource Center, featured several presentations by current student and faculty veterans, as well as guest speaker Col. J.P. Jenks ’83.
Jenks retired from the Army in 2010 after 28 years of distinguished service throughout the world. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service as a political officer in 2011. Jenks currently serves in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and runs the music diplomacy program, which recruits and sends American bands overseas to support U.S. embassies and play for foreign audiences.
In his remarks, he talked about the profound impact Radford University had on his personal life and military service. During his time at Radford, he played on the men’s soccer team, was a member of the ROTC, studied biology and performed music.
“It was a place where I could be all that I wanted to become,” Jenks said. “Still, when I drive over that hill and come on to campus, I’m filled with a range of emotions. I know I am home, and I hope our students feel that now.”
Jenks shared his personal struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and encouraged veterans who also battle the disorder to seek help.
“We need to take care of each other,” Jenks said.
He also emphasized the shared values of all veterans, including humility, focus, perseverance and integrity, and thanked those in attendance for their service. To end his presentation, he grabbed an acoustic guitar and serenaded the audience with a song.
The audience also heard from keynote speaker Lt. Col. James H. Scott, III, commander of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant. Scott entered active duty as an enlisted soldier in August 1992. His assignments have included posts in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Republic of Korea and throughout the U.S. Prior to his command in Radford, he served as the chief of plans and strategy, 20th CBRNE Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
Scott spoke of the many sacrifices men and women in uniform make “for all of us to maintain and enjoy the fruits of freedom.”
“I have seen their courage, determination and intelligence first-hand,” Scott said.
He also talked about today’s generation of soldiers, an all-volunteer force.
“This group is comprised of friends, neighbors and relatives who have answered the call to serve and share in our belief that America is the greatest country in the world,” Scott continued.
To end the ceremony, Newman took the podium to talk about several different ways Radford University honors veterans through scholarships and endowments. The Honor Scholarship Fund provides scholarship support for members of the ROTC, first responders, students planning a career in one of these fields and veterans. The Sparks Coan Veterans Fund - named after Newman’s grandfather, who served in World War II, and uncle, who served in the Vietnam War – is intended to provide financial awards to student veterans in need of food, housing, utilities and other daily expenses.
“Both of these initiatives are our attempts to honor those who have served and demonstrate the university’s commitment to assist these important members of the Radford family,” Newman said. “Our student veterans have earned our respect and deserve our support.”
Newman and several student veterans also honored Bill Kennan, who recently completed his service to Radford University as the director of the Military Resource Center. Kennan has been a part of the Radford family for more than 30 years, serving in various teaching and administrative capacities. He now serves an interim director of the School of Communication.