The University of Connecticut held a ceremony for Veterans Day on Friday at the Ultimate Sacrifice Memorial during which the keynote speaker emphasized the importance of having resources for veterans on campus.
Dr. Carlita Cotton, a United States Air Force veteran who received her doctorate at UConn, gave the keynote speech at the event. She highlighted the camaraderie that veterans shared in battle and beyond.
“Even though we may have been in danger of losing life or limb in combat, what we shared together was a safe space. It was that inner knowing that we were safe when we were around people, our battle buddies, who understood what we went through without us even having to utter a word,” Dr. Cotton said in her speech.
Dr. Cotton also stressed the importance of veterans using the resources that are provided for them on campus, particularly at the UConn Veterans Oasis Center.
“It’s a room that’s away from all the noise, where you can get a cup of coffee, open up your laptop and study without having to look behind your back.” Dr. Cotton said.
Alyssa Kelleher, the director of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs, said that the annual Veterans Day ceremony brought together a variety of groups on campus.
“I think it’s a good ceremony because we do it every year, and it brings together all different aspects of the campus and the community,” Kelleher said.
UConn Police and Fire officials attended the event alongside students in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, student and faculty veterans and other community members. The ceremony also included the placement of a ceremonial wreath at the memorial to honor those who gave their lives while serving in the military.
Elijah Bova is a student veteran studying geography and specializing in geospatial analysis. He said that he could not picture his college experience without the support network that he found at UConn.
“My experience at UConn definitely wouldn’t be the same without that Oasis and sense of community with the other veterans that I’ve had,” Bova said.
Dr. Cotton mentioned in her speech that there was no Veterans Oasis for her to use during her time at UConn. Bova said that this comment made him appreciate the resources and community at UConn even more.
John Durham, the president of UConn’s Student Veterans of America chapter, said that UConn is one of the best schools for veteran students. He emphasized the benefits that student veterans can take advantage of at UConn.
“We have a veterans advisory council that’s full of people throughout the Dean of Students, people throughout the administration and professors, and it just builds this growing, consistent support for veterans,” Durham said.
Brandon Soto, another student veteran, said that the resources for veterans on campus were especially helpful when he was transitioning from the military to college life.
“It can be a little bit of a fish out of water situation,” Soto said. “So having these resources where I could just, you know, enter the Oasis and actually communicate with people who have really been through most of what I’ve been through before, it really does help.”
In her speech, Dr. Cotton commended the work that has already been done on behalf of veterans and encouraged veterans and advocates to continue protecting their safe havens.
“You have a safe space. Even when it doesn’t always feel like it, you have a safe space. So use it,” Dr. Cotton said.