SU Women’s Choir to Present Veteran’s Day Concert in Setnor Auditorium Nov. 11th at 8 p.m

Syracuse University to showcase military history through the art of song in new concert titled “Syracuse University and National Defense: Forgotten and Untold Stories”

By: Jordan Robinson

Syracuse University Women's Choir Honoring 125 Years of Women in Song Concert CVPA School of Music
Syracuse University Women’s Choir Honoring 125 Years of Women in Song Concert CVPA School of Music

SYRACUSE, N.Y. –National defense and the pursuit of homeland security have pervaded our way of life at Syracuse University, dating as far back as WWI.  Following WWII, Chancellor William Tolley invited all returning war veterans to attend Syracuse University at a time when others closed their doors to our nation’s veterans.  Our school is steeped in veterans support and initiatives that have shaped the face of our university.  Because of this, Syracuse University has taken strides to showcase this military history through the art of song in a new concert titled “Syracuse University and National Defense: Forgotten and Untold Stories.”

The concert, performed by The Syracuse University Women’s Choir, takes the time to reflect on Veteran’s Day, when the university is focusing on its deep military roots.  The concert will feature songs that express the military history of SU and will be accompanied by a slideshow of wartime photographs taken from WWI to modern day.  Looking through the photographs with Barbara Tagg, conductor of the Women’s Choir and the creator of the concert, I could tell there was a rich history being unveiled through these slides and I was excited for the spectators to see them.

“The hope is to inspire patriotism in our community,” said Liza Kranz, Women’s Choir member whose grandfather served in WWII as a medic in the Navy.

Some of the songs that will be performed include, “The Road Home” and “Angels of Mercy,” selections that will honor those who served in wartime.  Megan Field, another member of the Women’s Choir, describes these songs as very powerful.  “Angels of Mercy” stood out to me in particular because it’s a song about women who served as nurses during the war, and I felt that message was very powerful in our immediate community.”

Barbara Tagg and I first met when she was working on this project months ago in the winter of 2015.  She had reached out to the Syracuse University Veterans’ Writing Group and asked to interview veterans as part of her research.  I happened to be one of those members interviewed.  Through the interview process, I was able to understand Barbara’s experiences with the military as well.  Barbara’s story is one of triumph over trial.  Watching her husband get called to war twice, once to Vietnam and again to the Persian Gulf, changed her perspective on veterans and military families, which was her motivation to start this project.  When Chancellor Kent Syverud announced his initiative to make Syracuse University the best school for veterans, Barbara knew this was the right time to do something special.  “For a long time I wanted to do something that honors veterans,” said Tagg.

Key players in the concert such as Dr. Patrick Jones have made all the difference in bringing the Chancellor’s initiatives to life.  Jones, former director of the School of Music and retired Air Force Colonel, has conducted countless hours of research within the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs at Syracuse University and has uncovered a wealth of knowledge in the quest to uncover our military past.  Jones will be narrating the concert on Veteran’s Day and has played a large role in the execution of the event.  Having watched this project grow from infancy, Jones would like the audience to walk away from the concert with a greater understanding of our rich military history as well as an understanding that we care about veteran’s issues.  “Veterans are a part of the DNA of our community,” said Jones, who knows the true value of our veteran history.

Collaboration is the key word that best describes this event.  From working together with various composers to gathering research through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Bird Library, and the Syracuse University Archives, many different moving parts came together to make this event a possibility. Engaging SU faculty, alumni, and students with internationally recognized artists, this historical retrospective concert will include narration, projected photographs, and music reflecting the rich history of forgotten and untold stories.  Over 50 people were involved in the project, with contributions ranging from internationally renowned Grammy award-winning composer Libby Larsen to Chad Steffey, who arranged the first treble arrangement of The Air Force Hymn for the ensemble. Original pieces will also premier at this event, such as “While We Are On Earth,” composed by Libby Larsen.  Larsen’s premiere work is based on texts by Eleanor Roosevelt, Kahlil Gibran, and Mother Teresa.  Other important figures involved include Sean O’Loughlin and Jim Papoulis, both of whom are conductors, arrangers, and composers.

This concert showcases a return to our rich military roots by taking a retrospective look at the service men and women who have contributed to our university over the last century.  It is Barbara Tagg’s hope that “attendees will leave with a greater knowledge of the rich veteran history we have at Syracuse University, and for them to know that we are very proud of this history.”  Free and open to the public, the concert takes place at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 in the Setnor Auditorium in Crouse College.  From popular tunes of the era and newly composed music to memorial tributes and engaging stories, the concert is sure to instill feelings of patriotism and camaraderie as we reflect on the importance of our military history at Syracuse University.







USAA and Hiring Our Heroes Announce Best Places for Veterans Seeking Higher Education

List identifies Syracuse, N.Y., as the seventh best place in the nation for veterans pursuing higher education opportunities

iStock_000018465970LargeSyracuse, N.Y., is the seventh best place in the nation for veterans pursuing higher education opportunities, according to a new study commissioned by USAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes.

The 2015 “Best Places for Veterans” education list identifies U.S. metro areas that offer higher education opportunities for veterans seeking to leverage their education benefits. The full education list includes:

1. Tuscaloosa, Ala.

2. Lynchburg, Va.

3. Ann Arbor, Mich.

4. College Station, Texas

5. St. Louis

6. Killeen, Texas

7. Syracuse, N.Y.

8. Greenville, N.C.

9. Salt Lake City

10. Columbia, S.C.

“Higher education is one avenue separating service members are encouraged to consider through the military’s Transition Assistance Program, and early planning can help them succeed,” said Eric Engquist, an assistant vice president at USAA and Army veteran. “This list, along with USAA’s other transition resources such as the military separation checklist and assessment tool, can help separating service members map out their financial plan well in advance of transition.”

“Our mission is to make sure every service member leaving the military makes an informed decision about his or her next step,” said Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring Our Heroes. “This list identifies the top places for those veterans who want to use their discipline and determination to pursue a college degree.”

USAA, a leading financial services provider to the military community, and Hiring Our Heroes commissioned Sperling’s BestPlaces and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University to create or provide data for this list. The four organizations worked together to determine measurable variables for 401 major U.S. metropolitan areas, which are defined as one or more central cities including the surrounding county or counties. The variables for the Education list included:

  • Percentage of Schools with VA VetSuccess on Campus counselors
  • G.I. Bill Enrollment Per Capita
  • Percentage Post-9/11 Yellow Ribbon Recipients
  • U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges for Veterans”
  • Graduation Rate
  • Loan Debt
  • Presence of Colleges
  • Veteran Unemployment
  • Health Resources

Each variable was weighted and each metro area was then ranked based on its total points for all variables. Metro areas with the following attributes were excluded from the list: unemployment rate more than 1 percent above the 2014 national average, property and personal crime in the top five percentile and median cost of living more than 20 percent above the national average. More information about this year’s criteria can be found at

“Navigation of available benefits, services, and opportunities—including education—has been cited as one of veterans’ greatest challenges when exiting the military,” said Nicholas J. Armstrong, PhD, senior director of research and policy at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. “This list helps cut through all the noise to identify areas where veterans and their families have the greatest chance for success both in higher education and beyond.”

USAA and Hiring Our Heroes also commissioned lists of the top metro areas for veterans seeking higher education opportunities and careers that align with military skills sets. Visit to see all of the lists.


Syracuse University Vice Chancellor, Employees, Veterans & Partners to Ring Closing Bell at New York Stock Exchange

Presence at New York Stock Exchange signifies commitment to veteran and military community

L-R: Margaret Lambrecht, Ray Toenniessen ’06, Kristina Donzella, G’15, Jesse Cannella, Mike Haynie, Charles Preuss, ’17, Michael Bianchi, John Tuttle/NYSE, Paul Dottle, Ross Brown

Representatives and guests of Syracuse University and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) will ring the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Closing Bell® this afternoon at 3:55 p.m., to highlight the university’s continuing commitment to the veteran and military community.

Joining Dr. Mike Haynie, Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), today are the following Syracuse University employees, alumni, and public-private partners:

  • Michael Bianchi, National Program Director, Onward to Opportunity, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University
  • Ross Brown, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, Director of Military and Veterans Affairs, JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) – founding partner of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University
  • Jesse Cannella, Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) graduate, and President & Co-Founder of HonorVet Services
  • Kristina Donzella, G’15, Academic Advisor, Veterans Career Transition Program (VCTP), Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University
  • Paul Dottle, Executive Vice President, American Express
  • Margaret Lambrecht, Executive Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University
  • Charles Preuss, ’17, Student Veteran, Syracuse University
  • Ray Toenniessen ‘06, Managing Director, Development and External Affairs, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University

Earlier this year, Intercontinental Exchange – the leading network of regulated exchanges and clearinghouses for financial and commodity markets, including the New York Stock Exchange – formally announced their support of the work of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and Syracuse University.

“Syracuse University is dedicated to being the best place for veterans,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “We are proud to have the Intercontinental Exchange as a partner in our work to serve transitioning service members, veterans and their families.”

Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie added that, in addition to the positive exposure the NYSE closing bell brings Syracuse University, “the ongoing partnership with Intercontinental Exchange will help us strengthen the education and resource initiatives already in place, and help Syracuse University and the IVMF develop new ways to help our veterans be successful in their post-service lives.”

Watch the closing bell LIVE at 3:55 p.m., online at

If you cannot watch it live, you can watch the archive at

HI-RES PHOTO (group ringing the closing NYSE bell) – Available upon request

About The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA):

The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) serves as Syracuse University’s single point of entry for all veteran and military related programs and initiatives. It collaborates and coordinates with all stakeholders to best serve veterans, military connected students, and military family members who are students or employees at Syracuse University. For more information about the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, visit

About the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)

The IVMF is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through our focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community, captures best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families. For more information, visit


Combat Disabled Veteran/SU Alumna Stacy Pearsall Brings Her Veteran Portrait Project to Syracuse

Syracuse University alumna exhibits in the SUArt Galleries; Pearsall will also photograph university and community veterans Nov. 4 and 5 as part of her Veterans Portrait Project

Daniel Oppelaar Navy E-6 Submarine Nuclear Machinist Mate 07/18/06-Present "Diving off the side of the submarine into the crystal clear water in the Bahamas." Veterans Portrait Project Virginia Beach, VA
Daniel Oppelaar
Submarine Nuclear Machinist Mate

Veterans Portrait Project
Virginia Beach, VA

Syracuse, NY (October 29, 2015) – The Syracuse University Office of Veteran and Military Affairs is pleased to join the Syracuse University Art Galleries in welcoming Stacy Pearsall and her exhibit: “Hard Earned: The Military Photographs of Stacy Pearsall” to campus this fall through – Jan. 24, 2016.

Sgt. Stacy Pearsall got her start as an Air Force photographer at the age of 17. During her time in the service, she traveled to over 41 countries, and attended S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Now combat disabled and retired from military service, Pearsall continues to work worldwide as a freelance photographer, and is an author, educator, military consultant, public speaker and founder of the Veterans Portrait Project.  Learn more about Pearsall’s visit to SU in feature article written by Jordan Robinson, Marine Corps veteran and president of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) at Syracuse University.

In addition to exhibiting her work in the SU Art Galleries, and collaborating with students and faculty during her November visit, Pearsall is inviting current veterans and active duty service members of Syracuse University, and the local Syracuse veteran community to meet with her and participate in her Veterans Portrait Project on the following days:

Wednesday, Nov. 4 (10 am to 2 pm)
Veterans Portrait Project
(open to SU campus veterans and active duty servicemembers)
Dick Clark Studios Lobby, Newhouse 2
Waverly Ave., Syracuse, N.Y.

Thursday, Nov. 5 (9 am to 11 am)
Veterans Portrait Project

(open to SU and Syracuse community veterans and active duty servicemembers)
Dick Clark Studios Lobby, Newhouse 2
Waverly Ave., Syracuse, N.Y.

There is no cost for those wishing to be photographed.  Attire – uniform or civilian clothes – for photo is up to the veteran or active-duty service member. Bringing a military memento or old photo always helps, and is encouraged, but it isn’t necessary.

Pearsall will provide each veteran a free high resolution file of their portrait, which they may use for private purposes. They may have them printed wherever, and however, they choose.

According to Pearsall, “The primary use is for the veteran – a gift of thanks for their service.”   She adds that no portrait is used for any other purpose, including using some of the portraits taken for her Veteran Portrait Project, without the veteran’s consent.

Portrait sittings are arranged on a first come, first served basis during the established dates and time blocks.  For more information, contact Nancy Austin at


About the Veteran Portrait Project:
Some are smiling. Others gaze at a distant point. All are veterans. The Veterans Portrait Project (VPP) began while Stacy Pearsall recovered from combat injuries sustained in Iraq. Spending hours in VA waiting rooms surrounded by veterans from every generation and branch of service, Pearsall was compelled to honor and thank them in the only way she knows how, photography. The Veterans Portrait Project totals 3,000 veterans and grows daily.  Visit for more information.


About the Exhibit:

“Hard Earned: The Military Photographs of Stacy Pearsall” presents over fifteen years of Pearsall’s career documenting military events and persons. Curated by Theresa Moir, a second year Syracuse University graduate student pursuing concurrent degrees in Museum Studies and Art History, this exhibition draws its content from Pearsall’s combat photography taken overseas on active duty in the Air Force, as well as her more recent Veterans Portrait Project.


Internationally Renowned Photographer Stacy Pearsall Visits SU

Graduate student serves as curator for exhibit in the SUArt Galleries; Pearsall will photograph university and community veterans Nov. 4 and 5 as part of her Veterans Portrait Project

By: Jordan Robinson

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jonathan Hicks attempts to access the upper levels of a building, which was just recaptured from enemy insurgents in Baqubah, Iraq on Jan. 22, 2007. The staircase hangs precariously from the second story after being heavily bombed by American fighter jets during the battle to recover the key location. Hicks’ translator managed to climb the obstacle to be sure the entire building was free of enemy forces.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jonathan Hicks attempts to access the upper levels of a building, which was just recaptured from enemy insurgents in Baqubah, Iraq on Jan. 22, 2007. The staircase hangs precariously from the second story after being heavily bombed by American fighter jets during the battle to recover the key location. Hicks’ translator managed to climb the obstacle to be sure the entire building was free of enemy forces.

Shadow and light play tricks on the walls of the dimly lit Syracuse University Art Galleries.  The weight of mixed emotions linger over the room like an ominous cloud.  A soldier looks up a winding and broken staircase to his comrade, who peers back with a look of bewilderment in his eyes.  The sun sets as a soldier is being medically evacuated after being blown up by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, Iraq.  The wild eyebrows of an eighty-year-old WWII veteran lend tangibility to an era fraught with confusion and angst.  All the eyes in these images have something in common:  they’ve seen hardship.

Looking through the Stacy Pearsall gallery exhibit titled “Hard Earned: The Military Photographs of Stacy Pearsall” with Theresa Moir, Art History and Museum Studies graduate student and curator of the exhibition, I could feel the solemnity and emotions pouring from these images.  As curator, Moir was responsible for selecting, researching, and arranging the photos currently on display in the SUArt Galleries in the Shaffer Art Building: October 6, 2015 – January 24, 2016.  Through countless hours of research, she was effectively able to provide context to the photographs and make decisions as to what should be displayed.  When asked how she decided which photos to include in the exhibit, she said, “I wanted to be authentic to the artist, true to her work, and true to her style.  I noted [Pearsall’s] balanced compositions and use of light and shadow, and selected photographs that reflected those elements.”

Much of Stacy Pearsall’s work is dark, but not in the sense of violence.  The collection from her deployments is one that inspires feelings of anxiety, depression, resistance, and despair, mixed among other emotions such as boredom and fear.  Rather than depict scenes of blood and gore, Pearsall’s vision of war is something much darker and certainly more foreboding.  It applies more of a humanistic aspect to war, which forces the viewer to take a cold hard look at the realities of the people living in those moments.  “I wanted to humanize what people had grown to feel was inhuman – the American soldier,” said Pearsall.  She believes that the true challenge as a journalist who covers war was having the ability to convey what was unseen more than what was seen.  “Trying to live through these moments, to capture the everyday in a foreign place, that was the true challenge.”

Jordan and Theresa imageAs an Airforce combat photographer and graduate of the Newhouse Military Photojournalism Program, Pearsall has gone on to document the lives and stories of people in over 41 countries, capturing over 500,000 images in the process.  Her outstanding work has led her to achieve the National Press Photographers Association award for Military Photographer of the Year twice.  She is one of only two women to ever receive the award.  Pearsall’s work began at the age of 17, when she enlisted in the U.S. Airforce.  During her service, she first entered combat as a photographer in Iraq in 2003.  Several of her images were used by the White House and senior officials to make informed decisions regarding the battle space.

After attending the Military Photojournalism Program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Pearsall went on to return to war zones where she witnessed more than just tragedy.  She lived it.  Having lost her closest companions in battle, Pearsall knew she wanted to do something more to immortalize her fellow brothers and sisters. She began by taking portraits of soldiers at large, in the very real event that they might not come back.  This was the inspiration for her Veterans Portrait Project.

While the Veterans Portrait Project began as a way to immortalize and thank veterans across all ranks and services, it also served as a sort of therapy for Pearsall.  “When I started this project, I was in a really dark place in my life, recovering physically and emotionally.”  For her, it was healing to take the photos of men and women who had served.  She wanted to not only educate herself but to educate others, to show that people come from all walks of life and from different regions across the world.

When asked about her training at Syracuse University, Pearsall said, “I found that the training I received at Newhouse really evolved the way I approached my technique.  A lot of artists have a vision to begin with, but with photography it’s hard to take that vision and match it with technical skill.  I’m very thankful for my Newhouse training, as it helped me grow and learn in ways I never imagined.”  The support system Pearsall found at Syracuse University was unrivaled.  “The relationships I fostered in school helped me at a time when I was right out of deployment.  They were like a family to me.”

Pearsall will be returning to her alma mater in early November to meet the current veterans and active duty service members of Syracuse University.  An event will be held in the lobby of Newhouse 2 for Stacy to photograph current veterans of the campus community on November 4th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for all student and employee veterans, and on November 5th from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. for all other veterans in the community who wish to have their picture taken.  Following the event, Stacy will give each veteran a high-resolution file of their photo.  She may even decide to use some of the portraits taken for her Veteran Portrait Project.  Free and open to the public, this event is sure to leave a lasting impression with all of her sitters.

Stacy’s photographs mean something different to each person who looks upon her work.  “One thing I really enjoy about Stacy’s work is how she uses passageways and thresholds in a lot of her photographs.  She has an eye for seeing the bigger picture, for capturing ways of looking through and looking past,” said Theresa Moir.  To say that Stacy Pearsall has an eye for capturing a shot is an understatement.  It is more of her vision that enables her to take such moving photographs. Her ability to capture emotion in non-verbal ways demonstrates her intensive knowledge of her subjects and their surroundings.  According to Moir, “Every portrait and photograph Stacy takes forces you to question what you see. The photographs ask the viewers to confront difficult subject matter, and do so in a way that emotionalizes both combat and our veterans. Pearsall’s ability to provide this humanizing context is what makes her such a brilliant photographer.”

About the Author: Jordan Robinson is a Marine Corps veteran who served at American Embassies in Mozambique, Austria, and Cuba.  She currently serves at the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) President of Syracuse University and is an active member of the Syracuse University Veterans Writing Group.  Her dream is to become a public diplomacy officer in the Department of State in order to facilitate positive communication between nations.


Syracuse University offers Veterans Tools for Success

VA_PrimaryLogo_cmyk_black_bigHave you heard of the “VSOC” program? It stands for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) VetSuccess on Campus program – and Syracuse University is a location spot!  Through the VSOC program, VA places experienced vocational rehabilitation counselors on college campuses to assist the growing number of Servicemembers, Veterans, and dependents attending school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill® and other VA educational programs.

These VSOC counselors are trained to provide academic and vocational guidance to Veterans, and help connect them to other VA benefits, including health care and mental health services.  The VSOC counselors maintain close relationships with local VA Vet Centers and VA medical facilities, referring Servicemembers, Veterans and dependents as needed and providing assistance applying for VA medical and nonmedical benefits.  Syracuse University VSOC counselor can be found on campus at 700 University Ave, Suite 326 G.

VetSuccess on Campus services are available to Servicemembers and Veterans eligible for any of VA’s educational programs, including the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill, as well as VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program.  VSOC counselors can also assist dependents of Veterans who are receiving VA education benefits, including eligible spouses attending school through the Post 9/11 GI Bill and eligible children.

In addition, VA’s Education and Career Counseling Program offers a great opportunity for transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans to get personalized counseling and support to guide their career paths, ensure most effective use of their VA benefits, and help them achieve their goals.  Visit Syracuse University’s VSOC counselor on campus to learn more about this program.

VA’s GI Bill website offers tools to help Veterans transition from military service to student success. For career assistance, including connecting to employers looking to hire Servicemembers, Veterans and dependents, the new Veterans Employment Center on eBenefits is a one-stop-shop offering online tools and resources.


U.S. Marine Corps, SU Student Veteran Recognized as This Week’s Hometown Hero

IMG_0183Lance Corporal Kevin Lee (United States Marine Corps) was honored at Saturday’s Syracuse University football game against the LSU Tigers.  At every home game, the Syracuse University Athletics Department and the Office for Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) honor a “Hometown Hero” and their family, recognizing their service and sacrifice to our nation and the Central New York community.

Lee enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2012 as a Telephone System and Personal Computer Repairman.  He is currently serving with the 6th Communications Battalion Reserve Unit in Brooklyn, NY, where he repairs communications equipment at the first echelon level.

Lee serves as the Syracuse University Student Veterans Organization’s Public Affairs Officer and is responsible for promoting the organization’s events and managing their social media outlets.  Last month, he received the honor of Student Veteran of the Month at Syracuse University. Additionally, Lee is working on his undergraduate degree in Marketing Management at The Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University.

LCPL Lee’s proudest military moment was when he earned the historic U.S. Marine Corps Eagle, Globe and Anchor during his graduation at Recruit Training in Parris Island, SC.  Steeped in history, purpose, and pride, the receiving of the EGA signifies the transition from a civilian to a Marine.  The eagle represents the proud nation we defend; the globe represents a worldwide presence; and the anchor points both to the Marine Corps’ naval heritage and its ability to access any coastline in the world. Together, the eagle, globe and anchor symbolize a commitment to defend our nation—in the air, on land and at sea.

LCPL Lee was accompanied on the field by New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Vice Chancellor Dr. Mike Haynie, NFL Hall of Famer and Syracuse University alumnus Floyd Little, and Teri Kappler, representing SEFCU.


U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, SU Student Recognized as This Week’s Hometown Hero

IMG_0121Staff Sergeant Joseph DiGirolamo (United States Marine Corps) and his family were in attendance at Syracuse University’s Sept. 19th football game against the Central Michigan Chippewas.  At every home game, the Syracuse University Athletics Department and the Office for Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) honor a “Hometown Hero” and their family, recognizing their service and sacrifice to our nation and the Central New York community.

SSGT DiGirolamo enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in 2004 as a military photojournalist.  Throughout his eleven years of photojournalism, SSGT DiGirolamo has traveled extensively and captured some amazing photos.  He is currently a student in the Military Photojournalism Program at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

SSGT DiGirolamo has received numerous accolades for his achievements in photojournalism.  While working at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Albany, New York, he was named “Marketing Public Affairs Marine of the Year.”  Additionally, he has served as an instructor at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, Maryland where he was recognized for outstanding leadership.  Most recently, SSGT DiGirolamo led a public affairs team that provided extensive coverage of the relief efforts following Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

IMG_0123Staff Sergeant DiGirolamo’s proudest military moment was in 2006 when he deployed with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment to Ramadi, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  During that time he was able to witness and document the incredible heart, grit, and bravery of his fellow Marine infantrymen.

SSGT DiGirolamo was accompanied on the field by his wife, Amy, and daughters, Kaylee and Skylar.


Air National Guardsman Recognized as Hometown Hero at SU/Wake Forest Football Game

(L-R) MSGT Brown was joined on the field by Teri Kappler, SEFCU, his son Troy, wife Kim, Syracuse alumnus and NFL Hall of Famer Floyd Little, and Dr. Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor of Veteran and Military Affairs.

Master Sergeant Michael J. Brown (Air National Guard) and his family were in attendance at Syracuse University’s football game against ACC opponent Wake Forest University on Saturday, Sept. 12. At every home game, the Syracuse University Athletics Department and the Office for Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) honor a “Hometown Hero” and their family, recognizing their service and sacrifice to our nation and the Central New York community.

MSGT Brown entered the United States Navy in 1994 as a Fireman Recruit.  He subsequently went on to serve as a SEABEE in the Naval Reserves and now serves as a Heavy Equipment Operator at the 174th Attack Wing, Air National Guard Hancock Field, Syracuse, N.Y.   During his various enlistments, MSGT Brown served in four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  

MSGT Brown was recognized by his unit for his admirable actions during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan.  During the deployment, MSGT Brown led a team of three airmen who extinguished a massive fire on Bagram Air Base and ultimately prevented the evacuation of 8,000 personnel to include the base hospital.  For his heroic efforts, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal with VALOR.  

In his civilian life, MSGT Brown is employed by the United States Postal Service as a letter carrier in North Syracuse, and he is a volunteer fireman holding positions of lieutenant, captain, and secretary with the Moyers Corners Volunteer Fire Department.  

MSGT Brown was joined on the field by his wife, Kim, and son, Troy.


Veterans: We Want You for Your Student Veteran Organization

Written by: Dan Piston, IVMF Student Intern

StudentVetsConf2015In 2013, I voluntarily separated from the Navy after six years on active duty as a rescue swimmer and helicopter crew chief.  After leaving the Navy, I returned home to Syracuse, New York, to attend Syracuse University for my bachelor’s degree.  From the beginning of my Naval service, I planned to get out after my first enlistment and use the GI Bill to earn my degree.  After being accepted to SU, I got a couple of part time jobs to earn money and fill my time while I waited for school to start.  As a non-traditional student, I focused all of my energy and time to finishing school as quickly as possible, but did not place any emphasis on future opportunities.  In January of my second year at SU, I attended the 2015 Student Veterans of America National Conference.  It turned out to be a life-changing experience.  Attending the SVA Conference gave me the opportunity I was looking for to continue to serve and make a difference in my school.

So, you may ask, what exactly is the SVA?  The Student Veterans of America (SVA) is a fairly new organization – established in 2008 – born from the lack of support in higher education for student veterans following their return from service.  Since 2008, they have provided programs to help student veterans, advocated for veterans nationally, invested in research for student veterans and connected alumni.  One of the most important missions of the SVA is to support the nearly 1,300 chapters registered around the country by offering guidance on establishing a successful chapter, holding leadership summits for chapter leaders, and providing financial support to chapters in need through grants and scholarships.

My first year of college, I studied hard and focused all my efforts on my academics.  At the start of my second year, I considered joining Syracuse’s student veteran organization.  Luckily for me, a spot opened from Syracuse to attend the SVA National Conference.  From the beginning of the 2015 SVA National Conference, I felt welcomed but curious to see where this new path would lead me. The National Conference is a gathering of SVA chapters from all over the country to learn how to improve their chapter in the future, network with other veterans and organizations, and hear speakers who support veterans.  This year was particularly exciting because the keynote speakers included United States Vice President and Syracuse Alum, Joseph Biden, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Robert McDonald, and Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, recipient of the Medal of Honor.  The opportunity to see one of these individuals speak would have been a privilege, but to see all of them speak and share their experiences was truly inspiring.

After attending this exciting event, my goal of getting involved came to fruition in the spring of 2015 when I was elected to be the Vice President of the Syracuse University Student Veterans Organization.  Alongside the President of our organization, Jordan Robinson, the work from our predecessors has continued and we are excited for what the future holds.  However, as an organization, we cannot be successful without participation from the student veterans on campus.  One of the major learning points from the SVA conference was that veterans have a foundation of skills they can use to be successful.  The SVA, as well as student veteran organizations at each university or college, provides a unique environment for student vets to come together and help each other work through problems, like sharing advice on adjusting to college life, how to spend the weekends and even how to prepare for life after college.

My message is simple: student veteran organizations need their student veterans!  If you are a Syracuse University student, I strongly urge you to step outside your bubble and come join us.  Every person brings valuable knowledge, skills and new ideas to the table.  If you are a student at a different college or university – get involved with your veteran’s organization.  And if you do not have a veteran’s organization then this could be an amazing opportunity to lead the student veterans on your campus by starting a veteran’s organization.  There are many resources available to help accomplish this, either by reaching out to the SVA or student organizations on other campuses.  Student veterans have so much to offer their schools, communities and each other.  Now is the time to step up and lead this generation of student veterans.

Dan is an intern with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Vice President of the SU Student Veterans Organization.  After serving six years in the U.S. Navy as a Rescue Swimmer, he returned to his hometown of Syracuse to continue his college education.  He is currently a senior year at Syracuse University studying Health and Exercise Science.  In his free time he enjoys living an active lifestyle by participating in and coaching CrossFit and spending quality time with his wife.