GVSU honors veterans, announces new initiatives
Students, faculty and staff members who served or are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard were honored November 11 at the Eleventh Annual Veterans Day Breakfast, hosted by President Philomena V. Mantella.
During the event, held at the Eberhard Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus, Mantella thanked veterans for their service and sacrifice. She said traditional higher education has failed the nation’s veterans.
“Only one out of 10 of our nation’s veterans who are in education are in institutions at the level of Grand Valley,” said Mantella. “They are coming to us with resources from their service and incredible leadership, and higher education needs to be shocked into action as it relates to our nation’s veterans.”
Mantella said Grand Valley will continue to generate ideas, new support systems, broader networks and more resources in order to be a model for others. “The first thing we did after announcing the Veteran Promise (pre-approved admission to GVSU) was to share it because we’re calling others to the work. That’s why we’re doing it and we’re proud to be leading,” she said.
Jill Hinton Wolfe, military and veterans resource manager at Grand Valley, announced new initiatives to support military-connected families at GVSU. Wolfe is working with the Seidman College of Business to hire a veteran programming coordinator for the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneurship-Lab. There are efforts to establish a veterans leadership initiative, child care grants for student veteran parents, and “Green Zone” training for faculty and staff.
“Green Zone training will help us do a deep dive on what it really means to be veteran inclusive,” said Wolfe. “We want veterans to be part of the larger community here at Grand Valley and to get the value that comes from that.”
Student veteran Enrique Leon, an Army veteran who is majoring in criminal justice, said being a part of Grand Valley has helped him transition to civilian life, further his education and feel at home.
“Every time I needed help, I could always count on the people at Grand Valley,” said Leon. “Jill encouraged me to stay when I wanted to quit school.”
First Sergeant Matt Eversmann, co-author of “The Battle of Mogadishu” and “Walk in My Combat Boots,” was the keynote speaker.
In October 1993, Eversmann led a group of Army Rangers in a U.N. peacekeeping operation in Somalia. He was trapped, outnumbered and marked for death, Eversmann’s survival and heroism earned him a Bronze Star Medal with valor service. He’s since been immortalized in the film "Black Hawk Down."
He said when it comes to supporting veterans, Grand Valley is different from other organizations he’s seen around the country. “I see deeds, not words. They do, they deliver, they put it all on the table and that is something that will resonate across the country,” he said.
Eversmann said every day is Veterans Day. “We need to take care of each other every single day,” he said. “Why do we need to do that? Everyone who serves puts the needs of others first. It’s in our DNA. We are very courageous; we do our job when we are scared. We’re dutiful and fulfill our obligations.”
Eversmann also will share his military story at an event tonight sponsored by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies.
Grand Valley has received national recognition for its commitment to veterans, offering several programs of support.
Grand Valley is committed to be the Midwest leader for veterans’ education — from the GVSU Veteran Promise, which guarantees admission for enlisted 2021 Michigan high school graduates, to the Student Veterans Network to the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneurship-Lab and the Peter Secchia Military and Veterans Program.