SMU honors student veterans
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Southern Methodist University honored 150 student veterans with a complimentary luncheon and Toys for Tots toy drive on Wednesday in Umphrey Lee’s Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom. The 90-minute luncheon included speakers from both SMU and several branches of the military.
Adm. Patrick Walsh of the United States Navy was the keynote speaker for the luncheon.
Walsh, a graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas and subsequently the U.S. Naval Academy, was commander of the United States Pacific Fleet and the Joint Support Force that responded to the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake that devastated Japan in 2011.
“It was a big deal getting Adm. Walsh to speak for our veterans,” Rita Kirk, director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, said. “We really wanted to honor our student veterans and thank them for their service and huge sacrifices.”
Kirk explained that the event has been in the planning phase for months and that SMU was extremely excited to finally be honoring its student veterans with the luncheon and celebration.
The event was sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, the Office of the Provost, the Division of Student Affairs and the Central University Libraries and the U.S. Military Veterans of SMU.
Ken Larsen, president of U.S. Military Veterans of SMU, spoke right before the admiral’s keynote address.
“I’m glad Adm. Walsh followed me and I didn’t have to follow him,” Larsen said. “He really gave a great speech. This was a really nice event to have us honored with.”
The U.S. Military Veterans of SMU, started in 2011, provides an outlet for SMU’s small, but active student veteran population. The organization hosts a tent at every SMU Boulevard, collects toys for children and sends care packages to active duty soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It also helps student veterans bond with students similar to themselves.
“I was very excited about this event,” Larsen said. “It was something that everyone needed.”
Candy Crespo, assistant director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, echoed Larson’s thoughts on the luncheon’s need at SMU.
“SMU’s been needing to honor its student veterans for a while,” Crespo said.
“They’ve served this country, so it’s our turn to do something for them.”
The luncheon also collected toys for the Toys for Tots program.
Besides just bringing toys, people coming were asked to bring supplies to put together care packages for soldiers on the front lines.
Kirk ended the luncheon with inspirational closing remarks, and then everyone began filing out quickly for pictures.
Many of the student veterans took photos with the high profile speakers while their family members mingled and visited with other veteran parents.
Veteran or not, the event was a bonding experience for all involved. In time, more events will be planned for student veterans, especially as more come home from deployments abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq and find their way to SMU for higher education.
Veteran students often have problems integrating with the larger student community and groups like the U.S. Military Veterans aid students in connecting with campus life and events.