Annual Veterans Day Ceremony Full of Gratitude, Honor
Galloway, N.J. – More than 100 years ago, following the tragedies and destruction of World War I, weapons were lowered in order to seek peace at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Today, we commemorate that crucial turning point in world history with celebrations like Nov. 10’s Veterans Day ceremony in the Campus Center Grand Hall, which included the singing of the National Anthem by Lynda Larkin, speeches and a reception that featured the Faces of Stockton’s Military Community Photograph Project.
Guest speaker Col. Yvonne L. Mays, deputy adjutant general for the New Jersey National Guard, discussed her journey from an 18-year-old fresh out of basic training for the Air Force to a proud member of the military community who is dedicated to helping others find opportunities to join what she considers a “thriving environment.”
“My time in uniform has been riddled with ups and downs, success and failure, love and loss, but, more than anything, my time in uniform has afforded me the opportunity to grow and learn, give and receive and lead and follow in a way that I would not have in any other profession,” Mays said, before telling the audience that she first joined the Air Force exclusively for the GI Bill, as college was considered a natural stepping stone. However, she was able to find such stepping stones in military life.
“What I found upon completion of basic military training in my first technical training school is that the Air Force offered me a step-by-step guide of what to do, when to do it, why and how to do it. If that wasn't enough, the reward for compliance or the consequence of failure written in regulation – now referred to as instruction – was a published guide on how to do everything that applied to everyone, regardless of where you came from, your socioeconomic status, race, color, creed, gender, etc. That was an environment that I could thrive in.”
As a young captain, Mays looked up to then-brigadier general Maria Falca-Dodson. Falca-Dodson went on to be promoted to major general and served as the assistant adjutant general. Mays was impressed by the natural leader but placed limits on herself, something that she hopes future military leaders will avoid doing.
“I wish I could say that I thought to myself then that I could do and be what she was, but I didn’t. I thought I could go far, just not that far,” Mays shared. “Time and opportunity, however, has allowed me to change my thinking on the matter – I have had the good fortune to be mentored and guided by some of the finest people, enlisted and officer, that increased my capacity to lead and follow.
“If, by chance, someone here is looking at me today and they see something in me that they aspire to be but think that I must have something they don't, please hear me when I tell you that's not the case. Most likely, you have more in you at this stage in your life than I had ever dreamed: your unique qualifications, coupled with hard work and the opportunities available to you today, will allow you to excel in whatever you decide to give your time and effort to.”
Other speeches during the program reflected the importance of inclusion when it comes to the military-affiliated population in the campus community.
Christian Simpson, a student and U.S. Navy veteran, reintroduced the audience to the Student Veteran Organization, which is now known as the Military-Affiliated Students of Stockton, during his remarks. As president of the student organization, he hopes to continue connecting resources to those who need them through the organization.
“Through the time that I've spent here so far at Stockton, as well as the other universities that I've had the opportunity to attend, one thing has been a constant, and that one thing is the sense of honor and community that we have together, not just as students, but as student veterans. I wanted to continue that community not just for myself but for my fellow students and everyone else here at Stockton who is affiliated with the military in any way, whether that be themselves as a veteran, their family members as defendants, or just as a supporter of the military.”
Ashley Jones, assistant director of the Military and Veteran Success Center (MVSC), is a proud daughter of an Air Force veteran who considers being a military child “a unique privilege.”
“As a military child, I've witnessed the countless ‘goodbyes,’ the long periods of separation and the anxiety that comes with the knowledge that your loved one is in harm’s way. But I've also experienced a sense of community, resilience and patriotism that defines military families,” Jones said. “We understand the importance of sacrifice, of putting duty before self and supporting one another through thick and thin. Today, let us not only pay our respects to veterans who have served but acknowledge the families who stand alongside them. The unwavering support and love of military families makes the service of our veterans possible.”
Michael Barany, veteran and director of the MVSC, expressed his gratitude for not only being a part of the community but in a position to help them through their transition back into civilian life.
He was in the same place as them after his four years in the Army, and he finds joy in being able to use his experiences to inform how he helps student veterans and other military-affiliated individuals.
“I love my job here because I get to work with a community that keeps me on my toes. Not a day goes by that I don't get to see something new every day. The situations we deal with are up and down, but at the end of the day, I love working with my peers and student veterans, whether they're male, female, black, white, you name it; we all share a common identity because we all wore the uniform. Some of us may still be wearing the uniform, or, in the case of our dependents, we all share that mentality of being with someone who wore that uniform.”
Galloway, N.J. — Military Times recently recognized Stockton University as one of the top schools in the state and in the Mid-Atlantic for military service members and veterans.
Stockton was ranked No. 2 in New Jersey and No. 10 in the Mid-Atlantic region. The university was No. 141 out of 325 schools nationwide in the rankings, which were released on Nov. 6.
“On behalf of the staff of the Military and Veteran Success Center (MVSC) and our partners in Financial Aid office, we are honored and proud to have Stockton ranked again within the Military Times Best for Vets rankings,” said Michael Barany, the director of the MVSC. “This would not have been possible without Stockton's military-affiliated students, proving that they are not only exceptional learners but also dedicated students and outstanding contributors to their community.”
The Military Times is the trusted source for independent news and information for service members and their families. Each year, the organization sends a survey to colleges and universities across the nation asking about their programs for veterans. The survey results are then analyzed, along with public data about colleges and universities obtained from the Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs, and turned into an official ranking.
— Story by Mark Melhorn
Galloway, N.J. – According to Jon & Jacqueline Hinker, finding resources and information as a veteran was difficult before events like Stockton University’s second annual Community & Veteran Resource and Wellness Fair, which took place in the Campus Center on Nov. 1.
Jon, an Army veteran and current junior vice commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars – Department of New Jersey (VFW – NJ), has been a part of the VFW for around 18 years. In his role, he is able to help other veterans get the resources and support they need. He’s proud to be able to continue that work through events like the fair.
“You know, it touches me every time I get to come out and be able to talk to our new friends that we found today and to see that Stockton brings all of the resources to the veterans,” Jon said. “I think it's really good for them to have those resources available to them because, back in the day, we didn't have the resources that Stockton's offering right now to our veterans, which is a great, great thing.”
— Story by Loukaia Taylor
– Story by Loukaia Taylor
– Photos by Susan Allen