Student veterans reflect on Veterans Day


Photo courtesy of Derek Abbey/Veterans Center

Photo courtesy of Derek Abbey/Veterans Center

Veterans Day came and went last Wednesday, and the University of San Diego community celebrated the day privately with Veterans Center events. Five student veterans from the Student Veteran Organization shared how they celebrate the day, and what the day means to them.

Junior Devin Zuccherino served in the United States Marine Corps for four years, from 2010 to 2014. Zuccherino described Veterans Day as just another day.

“It’s a time to reflect on what the military has done in the past and to thank other veterans,” Zuccherino said. “It’s just another day, I just say thank you back and go about my day. I have family in the Marine Corps and the military so I give them a call and thank them.”

Sophomore Nate Kramer transferred to USD this semester, and previously participated in the  Mesa College Veterans Organization which collaborated with the USD Student Veterans Organization. Kramer took the day to reflect and talk with his military family.

“I personally come from a military family, so you know my ancestors are also veterans,” Kramer said. “It’s neat to have a day to, for the ones who are still living, talk about their service.”

Senior Kevin Williams also reflected on service, and was unhappy that there was school scheduled.

“Veterans Day shows service before self,” Williams said. “Putting the rights of other people and your service for the country before your own wants and desires, like going to college and stuff. I will be attending college tomorrow [Vet’s day] because we are the only university in [the area] that has school on Veterans Day.”

Williams is not entirely correct as Point Loma Nazarene University also had class, but UCSD and SDSU got a day off. However, his fellow veteran junior Paulo Sotiangco does not mind whether there is school. Sotiangco served in the U.S. Air Force for 6 years and is currently part of the  Air National Guard stationed in March ARB, CA.

“Me personally, I don’t care if we go to school or not, as long as we respect the day,” Sotiangco said.

Junior Dakota Wine took a different approach than his peers.

“I’m exercising my right to not be here,” Wine said. “But I also do charity work for the Wounded Warrior Project to give back to my fellow veterans. And I take the day to remember other friends who haven’t made it.”

The USD Veterans Center serves as a resource for all of these veterans to gather, reflect, and create community on Veterans day, as well as throughout the entire year.

“It’s the ultimate resource,” Wine said. “You’re surrounded by people who are using the same benefits, and have the information you need. You find people who’re in the same classes as you, and you can tutor each other.”

Zuccherino shared that he believes that with the influx of veterans, the students could benefit from having a bigger space. Kramer agreed, noting that while they are grateful for the Veterans Center and the space USD provides, it resembles a recruiting office.

“I transferred from Mesa College, and initially they gave us a small room,” Kramer said. “Then they gave us a space that was an old biology lab. It sounds terrible but we actually took ownership of the space, we decorated it and made it our own. It provides a better sense for community.”

Sotiangco found that the Veterans Center at USD is better than what was available at his previous schools.

“USD has given a lot for us veterans,” Sotiangco said. “It’s a lot better than my last school that I went to. At the school all we had was a small little room. That’s what they gave to about 300 veterans.”

Having the space that USD provides veterans allows students like Sotiangco to connect with others.

“For USD to give us the veterans resource, it means a lot,” Sotiangco said. “Not only to me, but I’m sure to veterans because it’s a way for all of us to connect, and a way for all of us to really find the resources necessary to succeed in this university.”

Within the Veterans Center, these students participate in the Student Veterans Organization. As the outreach coordinator for the organization, Kramer wants the USD community to recognize them among other student organizations.

“We’re looking to collaborate with other student organizations on campus,” Kramer said. “Last year we participated in Relay For Life, and this year we plan to do it again.”

Echoing Kramer, Wine explained the organization’s goal to be recognized as a legitimate organization on campus.

“The Student Veterans Organization is pushing to be and to also host events that people know they don’t have to be a veteran to attend,” Wine said.

As one of their events, every Thursday they host “Soldiers and Salsa.” Zuccherino elaborated on the of the event.

“It’s a lady who comes in and teaches salsa to the veterans, but it’s also open to the whole campus,” Zuccherino said. “We’ve had up to like 40 people in one class, half vets half student population. That was probably the best thing we’ve done so far this semester to have our presence known on campus.”

Kramer explained that overall, the student veterans were not looking for special attention on Veterans Day or any other day of the year.

“As vets we don’t really want more attention,” Kramer said. “At the same time we don’t want to be forgotten.”

With the resources provided by the Veterans Center and the Student Veterans Organization, the student veterans will become a strong member of the USD community.