2015 Veterans Day Ceremony, a Visible Display of Gratitude

Veterans Day 2015 Ceremony Brigadier General Michael Fantini Keynote Speaker
Veterans Day 2015 Ceremony Brigadier General Michael Fantini Keynote Speaker

In 2014 Chancellor Kent Syverud reaffirmed Syracuse University’s commitment to veterans and their families, making it clear that serving veterans was one of the university’s primary missions. During the 2015 Veterans Day ceremony, it was clear that Chancellor Syverud’s commitment to veterans has not wavered. The Veterans Day Ceremony took place at 11:00 am on November 11, 2015, in Hendricks Chapel. Led by Jordan Robinson, Master of Ceremonies and Syracuse University Student Veterans Organization (SVO) president, the Veterans Day Ceremony was a visible display of gratitude for our nation’s veterans.

U.S. Navy veteran and SVO Vice President, Daniel Piston, spoke on the history of Syracuse University Veterans. He reminded onlookers of the university’s proud history of serving U.S. Armed Forces veterans, beginning with Chancellor William Tolley after WWII. Piston likened Chancellor Tolley’s mission of serving veterans to that of current Chancellor Syverud.

A highlight of this year’s Veterans Day celebration were the remarks delivered by the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Brigadier General Michael Fantini, United States Air Force.

General Fantini is the principal Director for Middle East Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon, Washington D.C. He is a command pilot with more than 3,200 hours in the MQ-9, F-16, T-37 and T-38. General Fantini’s awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal.

General Fantini praised Syracuse University’s commitment to veterans under Chancellor Syverud’s leadership. He told the audience that he was happy that he had made the choice to come to Syracuse University and that during his visits to the campus he felt that there was something special about this university. General Fantini stated that if he could bottle up the environment at SU and “sprinkle it across the Middle East” that there would be “a lot less problems.” This positive environment must have been a factor when his daughter, Elizabeth chose to attend Syracuse University on an Air Force ROTC scholarship.  As General Fantini closed his remarks, he spoke of another great accomplishment that he would be able to claim by the end of the day, enlisting his daughter into the United States Air Force.

Cadet Elizabeth Fantini had a part in the ceremony as well. She delivered the flag that was presented to Chancellor Syverud. This flag was later raised outside the steps of Hendricks Chapel as the audience looked on. As the ceremony concluded, a wreath was laid in front of the WWII memorial, a sign of Syracuse University’s continued support of veterans and their families.

WWII Hero, Medal of Honor Recipient Earns Degree and Hometown Hero Recognition

IMG_0748Technical Sergeant Forrest Lee Vosler (U.S. Army Air Force) was honored at Saturday’s Syracuse University football game against Clemson. At every home game, the Syracuse University Athletics Department and the Office of 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.

Vosler was born on July 29, 1923, in Lyndonville, NY. After graduating from Livonia High School, he enlisted in the Army Air Force where he became a radio operator. Vosler was assigned to the 358th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, in England. He was a crewmember of a B-17 Flying Fortress called the “Jersey Bounce, Jr.”

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt awarded the Medal of Honor to Technical Sergeant Vosler in the Oval Office on August 31, 1944, for his actions over Bremen, Germany. Vosler was hit twice by 20 mm shrapnel after taking the place of one of the plane’s gunners. Despite many injuries to his legs, arms and eyes, he managed to tend to the wounded tail gunner, repair the damaged radio equipment, and send a distress signal before the aircraft crashed into the North Sea.

Vosler was discharged from the Army Air Force following numerous surgeries and extended stays in nine hospitals. He matriculated at Syracuse University in the spring of 1945. While at Syracuse, he met and married his wife, Virginia Slack, a Kappa Delta and a Liberal Arts graduate of the Class of 1945. They raised four children in Central New York; Stephen, Jeffrey, Sondra Fields-England, and Susan Snow Bass, Class of 1990.

Despite being named the Army Air Force’s “Greatest Hero of World War II, Vosler’s combat injuries to his eyes made it difficult for him to study. He had trouble reading because he could only see shapes and shades, and required additional surgeries. He persisted for 17 years, dropping in and out of school, trying to earn the Syracuse University degree he so dearly wanted, but his injuries prevented him from completing a Syracuse University degree. Vosler passed away on February 17, 1992 with an “unseen” dream not fulfilled.

Technical Sergeant Forrest Vosler’s unseen dream became a reality 70 years later.   On November 13th, 2015, Syracuse University awarded Forest L. Vosler an Associate’s Degree of Arts, thus making him a Syracuse University alumnus, Class of 2015!

Syracuse University’s Chancellor Kent Syverud, Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie, and Syracuse University great and NFL Hall of Famer Floyd Little honored Vosler by presenting his son Steve Vosler and his wife, Karen Vosler with the game ball.

Robert B. Murrett- You Should Know His Story

 

murrettVice Admiral Robert B. Murrett is a faculty member at Syracuse University, and also a military veteran. You should know his story, because it’s a Syracuse University story—one that speaks to our past, our present, and our future.

Murrett is an excellent example of our Hometown Heroes, growing up in Buffalo, NY and attending the University of Buffalo, where he received a Bachelor’s of Arts in History in 1975. Murrett’s initial tours of duty with the US Navy after commissioning included deployments to the Mediterranean, North Atlantic, and West Pacific as an afloat intelligence officer aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, USS America, and USS Independence.

Soon after his return to the US following his deployments, Murrett was assigned to the Defense Intelligence College, where he received a Master’s of Science in Strategic Intelligence. With his refined skills in data and national intelligence, Murrett was assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence as a briefing officer. This experience was particularly valuable as Murrett soon after was assigned as an Assistant Intelligence Officer for the Commander of the US Second Navy Fleet, where he served from 1983-1985 upon the USS Mount Whitney and the USS Nassau. Following the two years at sea, Murrett served for three years on dry ground as the Assistant Naval Attaché at the US Embassy in Oslo, Norway.

After Murrett’s service in Oslo, he went back to the sea, serving first as the Operational Intelligence Officer for the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet in 1989 and then as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence for Commander, Carrier Group Eight aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt from 1992-1995. Murrett continued to climb the ranks of Naval intelligence, serving as the Assistant Chief of Staff , Intelligence for Commander, Second US Naval Fleet from 1995-1997 and then as the Executive Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence from 1997-1998.

From 1998-2000, Murrett served in elite intelligence posts for the Navy, including serving as Director of the Intelligence Directorate in the Office of Naval Intelligence from 1998-1999 and as Commander of the Atlantic Intelligence Command (AIC) in 1999. While in this post, Murrett oversaw the transition of AIC to Joint Forces Intelligence Command, which was very successful under his leadership.

Murrett later served as Director for Intelligence at the US Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, VA for two years before becoming the Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence, a post he held from 2005-2006. From here, as was typical for Murrett, he could only move upwards. He was appointed in 2006 as the 4th Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Since his retirement in 2010, Murrett has been a Professor of Practice at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship of Public Affairs, the Deputy Director of SU’s Institute on National Security and Counter terrorism, and a member of the SU Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ Board of Directors.

Syracuse University Hires Employees to Bolster Its Service to Veterans

Daniel J. Czajak Appointed Assistant Director for Student Veteran and Military Recruiting; Lauren Elizabeth Pyland Will Serve as Operations Coordinator

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (November 17, 2015) – Syracuse University is pleased to announce two recent personnel actions that signify the University’s continued commitment to serving college-bound veterans; expanding military recruitment; and developing educational programs and services for the veteran and military family community.

 

Daniel J. Czajak was recently hired as the Assistant Director of Admissions for Student Veteran and Military Recruiting. This role caters to the unique needs of prospective and incoming students from military backgrounds, including military family members. Czajak is charged with expanding recruitment efforts to boost veteran and military enrollment. A liaison to all colleges and academic programs, Czajak will serve as a marketing and communications adviser and contributor. He is also the dedicated admissions counselor for military-affiliated students.

Czajak, a Syracuse graduate, earned his bachelor’s degree in History and Psychology in 2004 and commissioned into the Air Force through the university’s ROTC program. Czajak began his active duty career as a management analyst and consultant determining manpower requirements. He later transferred to the Army and served as a staff officer for personnel management and administration. During that time, Czajak deployed to Iraq for a fifteen-month tour. More recently, he served in the Army Reserve, completing the Army’s chaplain training in 2013. He is in the final stages of completing a graduate theology degree from Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, MD.

Czajak assumed his role on Monday, August 31.

 

Lauren Pyland Portrait

Lauren Elizabeth Pyland is the new Operations Coordinator in the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA).  In this position, Pyland will address the growing needs of the veteran and military family community at Syracuse University.

Pyland is a Syracuse University graduate, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in History in 2012.  She received her commission into the U.S. Army Reserves from Syracuse University Army ROTC.

“Lauren Pyland is the ideal selection for this position” states Ron Novack, executive director of the university’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. Being a Syracuse University, U.S. Army ROTC graduate, and from an Army Veteran family, she thoroughly understands veterans and military families from end to end as well as the Syracuse University campus.”

Pyland currently serves in the U.S. Army Reserves as a Disbursing Officer for the 374th Financial Management Support Unit. She possesses a thorough understanding of the unique needs of veterans, specifically in transition and higher education, and the ability to work collaboratively across the University, as well as leverage existing services to achieve end goals.

Pyland assumed her new role on Monday, November 2.

 

 

About Syracuse University’s 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 http://veterans.syr.edu.

 

Syracuse University Posthumously Awards Degree to WWII Veteran

Associate of Arts Degree is presented to Technical Sergeant Forrest L. Vosler

IMG_0698Chancellor Kent Syverud; Dr. Karin Ruhlandt, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Dr. Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor for Veteran and Military Affairs recognized the accomplishments of Forrest L. Vosler by posthumously awarding him an Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts at a special Degree Conferral Ceremony held today on campus.  Forrest’s son, Steve Vosler (and his wife, Karen Vosler) represented the family and accepted the degree on behalf of his father.

During WWII, Technical Sergeant Forrest L. Vosler (U.S. Army Air Force radio operator) sustained serious injuries to his eyes, legs, and arms when the plane he was in was shot down and crashed in the North Sea.  For his heroic actions, he received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Vosler was unable to complete his baccalaureate degree due to his combat injuries. He had, however, completed all of the requirements for the Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts.  Today, Syracuse University posthumously awarded Forrest L. Vosler an Associate’s Degree of Arts, thus making him a Syracuse University alumnus, Class of 2015.

 

More About Forrest L. Vosler:

VoslerTechnical Sergeant Forrest Lee Vosler was born on July 29, 1923, in Lyndonville, New York. After graduating from Livonia High School, he enlisted in the Army Air Force where he became a radio operator. Vosler was assigned to the 358th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, in England. He was a crewmember of a B-17 Flying Fortress called the “Jersey Bounce, Jr.”

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt awarded the Medal of Honor to Technical Sergeant Vosler in the Oval Office on August 31, 1944, for his actions over Bremen, Germany. Vosler was hit twice by 20 mm shrapnel after taking the place of one of the plane’s gunners. Despite many injuries to his legs, arms and eyes, he managed to tend to the wounded tail gunner, repair the damaged radio equipment, and send a distress signal before the aircraft crashed into the North Sea.

Vosler was discharged from the Army Air Force following numerous surgeries and extended stays in nine hospitals.  He matriculated at Syracuse University in the Spring of 1945.  While at Syracuse, he met and married his wife, Virginia Slack—a Kappa Delta and a Liberal Arts graduate of the Class of 1945. They raised four children in Central New York: two sons—Stephen and Jeffrey, and two daughters—Sondra Fields-England and Susan Snow Bass, Class of 1990.

JerseyBounceJr(sepia)Despite being named the Army Air Force’s “Greatest Hero” of World War II, Vosler’s combat injuries to his eyes made it difficult for him to study. He had trouble reading because he could only see shapes and shades, and required additional surgeries. He persisted for 17 years, dropping in and out of school, trying to earn the Syracuse University degree he so dearly wanted, but his injuries prevented him from completing a Syracuse University degree.  Vosler passed away on February 17, 1992 with an “unseen” dream not fulfilled.

Technical Sergeant Forrest Vosler’s unseen dream became a reality 70 years later!   On November 13, 2015, Syracuse University awarded Forest L. Vosler an Associate’s Degree of Arts, thus making him a Syracuse University alumnus, Class of 2015!

Military Times Releases “Best for Vets: Colleges 2016” Rankings; Syracuse University listed as 7th Best Private School for Vets in U.S.

Sixth annual rankings factor in veteran and military students’ success rates

2016_BFV_COLLEGES_logoMilitary Times announced this week its Best for Vets: Colleges 2016 rankings, listing Syracuse University as the number #1 research university in New York State for veterans, the seventh best private university in the nation for veterans, and 35th overall among the 600 public and private four-year colleges and universities that took part in this year’s detailed survey. The Military Times’ annual survey is the most comprehensive school-by-school assessment of veteran and military student services and rates of academic achievement. Syracuse University’s overall ranking in the Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2016 is up four spots from 2015.

“Syracuse University is proud to be listed among the nation’s best colleges and universities when it comes to serving veterans and their families,” shares Dr. Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor, Syracuse University Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. “Syracuse has been a leader in education for veterans ever since we helped champion the 1944 G.I. Bill.  Yet, we are more committed than ever to our veterans on campus and realizing Chancellor Kent Syverud’s charge to make Syracuse University the best place for veterans.”

Syracuse University has implemented several innovative initiatives over the past year in support of programs, processes, and best-in-class practices designed to propel the educational experience of our veterans, military-connected students, and their families.

  • Creating a single point of entry for all veteran and military related programs and initiatives – In January 2015, the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs was created, thus recreating a new version of Chancellor William Pearson Tolley Veterans Educational Program and Veterans Advisement Center (during WWII) to serve the current “Greatest Generation” of American veterans. Mike Haynie was soon after appointed Vice Chancellor to lead all veteran and military related programs and initiatives at Syracuse University.
  • Strengthening our commitment to on-campus and post-degree success for SU student veterans -Syracuse University has created two new veteran-focused positions this year: one that concentrates on career development and employment needs of the veteran and military family community at Syracuse University, and another on better serving college-bound veterans and expanding military recruitment at Syracuse University
  • Removing the financial barriers for veterans attending Syracuse University – Syracuse University began this fall to offer unlimited Yellow Ribbon Funding Awards to student veterans. The Yellow Ribbon Program is a supplemental funding program that when combined with Post 9-11 GI Bill Educational Benefits allows student-veterans to earn a Syracuse University degree at no cost ($0 tuition).
  • Providing modern day technology and enhanced communications for our student veterans – Syracuse University graduate students, led by a student-veteran, and a faculty member from the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications, created a mobile application called VeteransU. Using the VeteransU App, student veterans at Syracuse University are provided guidance through their entire higher education experience, using a newsfeed of veteran news and events, and a step-by-step “roadmap” through the application process. The App also includes a directory that connects users, listing their military branch and contact information.

As with all Best for Vets rankings, Best for Vets: Colleges 2016 is an editorially independent news project that evaluates the many factors that help make colleges and universities a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families. More than 600 colleges took part in this year’s detailed survey.

“It’s been amazing to witness how colleges all across higher education have embraced service members and their families,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Military Times’ Best for Vets rankings and special editions. “Over the past six years of our surveys, we’ve seen so many schools first begin to foster – through new policies, services and dedicated facilities – and then nurture these wonderful communities.”

Military Times’ annual Best for Vets: Colleges survey asks colleges and universities to meticulously document a tremendous array of services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties; and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus. Military Times also factors in data from the Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments, as well as three Education Department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard data and the Cohort Default Rate Database.

“We award the Best for Vets designation to the very best – the colleges that really are setting the example,” Miller said.

For the full Best for Vets: Colleges 2016 rankings, go to: www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2016.

Military Times’ series of Best for Vets rankings includes: Colleges, Career & Technical Colleges, Business Schools, Franchises, Employers, Law Enforcement and Places to Live.

 

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About Syracuse University’s 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 http://veterans.syr.edu.

 

About Military Times

The Military Times digital platforms and newsweeklies are the trusted source for independent news and information for service members and their families. The military community relies on Air Force Times, Army Times, Marine Corps Times, and Navy Times for reporting on everything important to their lives, including: pay, benefits, finance, education, health care, recreational resources, retirement, promotions, product reviews, and entertainment. Military Times is published by Sightline Media Group. To learn more, visit www.militarytimes.com.

 

About Sightline Media Group

Sightline Media Group, formerly Gannett Government Media, was established in 1940 as Army Times Publishing Company, an independent publishing company reporting on military news and information. Since then, the company has expanded into defense and government news, and has launched or acquired more than 13 periodicals and extended its brand globally into the online and broadcasting arenas. Sightline Media Group is a subsidiary of TEGNA Inc. For more information, visit www.sightlinemediagroup.com.

 

About TEGNA

TEGNA Inc. (TGNA), formerly Gannett Co., Inc., is comprised of a dynamic portfolio of media and digital businesses that provide content that matters and brands that deliver. TEGNA reaches more than 90 million Americans and delivers highly relevant, useful and smart content, when and how people need it, to make the best decisions possible. TEGNA Media includes 46 television stations (including those serviced by TEGNA) and is the largest independent station group of major network affiliates in the top 25 markets, reaching approximately one-third of all television households nationwide. TEGNA Digital is comprised of Cars.com, the leading online destination for automotive consumers, CareerBuilder, a global leader in human capital solutions, and other powerful brands such as G/O Digital, Clipper and Sightline Media Group. For more information, visit www.TEGNA.com.

 

Brigadier General Michael Fantini Enlists Daughter, SU AFROTC Cadet, into the Air Force

Veterans Day 2015 Ceremony Brigadier General Michael Fantini Keynote Speaker
Veterans Day 2015 Ceremony Brigadier General Michael Fantini Keynote Speaker

On the morning of November 11, 2015, Brigadier General Michael Fantini was not getting ready to go to work at the Pentagon; he was preparing to run with his daughter during Syracuse University’s second annual Veterans Day Fun Run/Walk. This would be the start to a busy day for both father and daughter.

General Fantini was the keynote speaker at this year’s Veterans Day Ceremony. General Fantini knew about his part in the ceremony, but did not know that his daughter would also have a key role in the ceremony. Cadet Elizabeth Fantini carried a flag down the aisle to be saluted by Chief Petty Officer Jake VanMarter, U.S. Navy Reserves, before being passed along to Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud. It was easy to see that it was not Brigadier General Fantini watching the interaction; it was a father watching his daughter carry on a Syracuse University tradition.

While General Fantini was pleased to be asked to be a part of this ceremony honoring veterans, he might have been looking forward to another, possibly greater honor. Later in the day, General Fantini enlisted his daughter into the United States Air Force.  Cadet Fantini knew that she would be receiving an Air Force ROTC scholarship in advance of the Veterans Day Ceremony. She could have chosen to enlist sooner, but she chose to wait, giving her dad the opportunity to enlist her.

Dr. Mike Haynie, Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Founder of the IVMF, Named Onondaga County Veteran of the Year

Dr. Haynie, Air Force Veteran, is honored at annual Onondaga County Veteran’s Day Ceremony

Michael Haynie_OnonCoVet_2015Syracuse, N.Y. (November 11, 2015) —At today’s Annual Onondaga County Veteran’s Day Ceremony, Onondaga County officials and the Onondaga County Veterans Council presented the 2015 Distinguished Veteran of the Year Award to Dr. J. Michael Haynie, Syracuse University Vice Chancellor of Veteran and Military Affairs, and founding Executive Director of Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans & Military Families (IVMF).

Haynie was honored and humbled by the award, acknowledging that his efforts and past accomplishments in support of the nation’s veterans and their families are only possible as a result of tremendous partners and committed colleagues at Syracuse University and across the community.

Before beginning his academic career, Haynie served for 14 years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. In 2006, when he joined Syracuse University, he founded the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program, designed to empower veterans through entrepreneurship. The EBV program has since been expanded to nine other universities across the country and graduated more than 1,800 veterans. Haynie later went on to launch the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (2011), as the nation’s first interdisciplinary academic institute, focused purposefully on informing and impacting the policy, economic, wellness, and social concerns of the nation’s veterans and their families.  To date, more than 35,000 service members, veterans, and military family members have participated in the IVMF’s vocational training and educational programs.

“As a veteran myself, I could not ask for a more rewarding and personally gratifying opportunity than to serve my fellow veterans and their families,” stated Dr. Haynie when referring to the Institute he founded, and expanding on his role as Vice Chancellor at Syracuse. “Syracuse University, under Chancellor Kent Syverud’s leadership, is writing the next chapter in the story that defines the University’s long-standing commitment to those who have worn the uniform of our nation.”

Haynie shared that he looks forward to strengthening Syracuse University’s connection to and partnership with the broader regional community. “By working together to serve, support and leverage the success of our veterans, transitioning service members, and their families; and by creating innovative public/private partnerships and initiatives, we are addressing the navigation challenges many of our veterans face when returning to the civilian workforce and back into our local communities.”

Haynie completed his doctoral degree in Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and his academic research has been published in many of the world’s leading entrepreneurship and business journals. Haynie is a sought after advisor and speaker related to business strategy, veterans issues, and entrepreneurship.  His work has been widely featured by the media, to include by the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes, in a story titled “Succeeding as Civilians.” Dr. Haynie currently serves as the chairman of the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach.  In 2015, U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs Bob McDonald appointed Haynie to serve as the vice chairman of the newly created MyVA Advisory Committee, chartered to set the course for long-term excellence and reform at the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Transcend What Divides Us, To Honor Their Service

Written by: Dr. Mike Haynie

mhaynie_20113Today – Wednesday, November 11, 2015 – is Veterans Day.

A day of reflection, Veterans Day represents an opportunity to recognize and honor the service and sacrifice of the generations of military veterans who have worn the cloth of our nation.  Our politicians will give speeches, communities will host parades, and we’ll dress ourselves in plenty of red, white and blue—and then, it will be over.  And then, Thursday will come.

On this Veterans Day, it is my hope that all Americans—politicians, plumbers, homemakers, and hedge fund managers—commit to something bigger than a parade, or a bumper sticker, or a ‘day.’  Instead, it is my hope that Veterans Day 2015 represents an opportunity for all Americans to make a commitment to each other, and to engaged citizenship.

I say that because this Veterans Day will play out in the backdrop of what is setting up to be one of the most divisive and polarizing election for the nation’s highest office.  Many, on both sides of the political aisle, admit that they can’t recall a time when the nation was so ideologically fractured.  Healing those fractures, for the greater good of the nation, is an imperative and the responsibility of all Americans.   So what does this have to do with Veteran’s Day, you might ask?  Everything.

Over the past 14 years, a small minority of Americans have shouldered the burden of a decade at war, on behalf of the majority.  I know these men and women well, and they didn’t go to war for a political party or an ideology.  Instead, they served and sacrificed for their neighbors, their teammates, their teachers, and for their families.  As Gen. Patton said, “the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”

In the context of my experiences working for and with veterans, there are several interactions that are seared in my memory.  One of those instances was when I met a young Marine who had lost both of his legs, and part of his arm, to an IED in Afghanistan.  That IED changed the course of this young man’s life in a profoundly traumatic way, but when I talked to him about his plans for the future, I was struck by how humble and dismissive he was of his sacrifice. He talked about his future, of his big plans.  He talked about doing his duty as a Marine, and as a citizen.  He talked to me about how proud and blessed he was to be an American.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I know that this young man didn’t serve and sacrifice for a ‘red state’ America, or a ‘blue state’ America.  This young man shed his blood for his teammates, his country, and his fellow citizens.  This is not to say that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines don’t have and deserve their own political belief systems and values.  However, it is to say that the culture of the military is such that while individual differences are acknowledged and even celebrated, a higher purpose– the ideal of citizenship and service—transcends what divides them, in a way that unifies their purpose and actions.  This is what Veterans Day has to teach us.  This is what Veterans Day has to do with politics.

It is my hope that on this Veterans Day, reflection on the selfless service and profound sacrifice of this young Marine—as well as the countless others who have worn the uniform of our nation through times of war and peace—will serve as an opportunity for all Americans to see a path to something bigger than ‘red states’ and ‘blue states.’

Let the example of our veterans represent an illustration of how we can bridge our differences and unite as Americans.  This is the best gift we could bestow upon our veterans, because this is how we do honor to their service.

* This message is adapted from a similar call to action Dr. Haynie shared on Veterans Day 2012, shortly following the 2012 Presidential Election.

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.