June 14 –– it was a patriotic day in several ways. The ceremony opened with music by the Veterans Band of Corpus Christi, student vocalist Lorissa Chapa sang the national anthem and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Color Guard posted the colors. Not only was the day designated Flag Day across the county but Del Mar College also used the occasion to hold its grand opening of the new Veterans Center on the West Campus.
The new facility, which is located in the Coleman Center, will serve as a place that student veterans can call “home” while they’re on campus. Not unlike a USO Center, the College’s Veterans Center will provide these students and their dependents attending the College a place to bond, build morale and relax between classes.
The new facility houses a large flat screen television and lounge area, computers with Internet access that are networked to printing services, a workspace for projects and homework and a kitchenette with a microwave, refrigerator and coffee pot.
“We hope the Del Mar College Veterans Center becomes a home away from home for our veteran students, a place where they can go to work on their studies, relax for a few minutes, enjoy the camaraderie of fellow veteran students, have a cup of coffee or a snack and recharge their batteries while they pursue their academic goals,” says Tammy Miller, DMC’s Veterans Center Coordinator and retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer. “Everyone at the College is grateful for their service to our great nation, and we’re proud to serve those who served with pride!”
During the grand opening, two DMC student veterans provided remarks about their own military experiences and what the Veterans Center means for them and fellow veterans attending the College.
Claude Ormand, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant, says that he has traveled around the world and been deployed multiple times to Afghanistan, interacting with active duty personnel from every branch of the military services. “The new Veterans Center is a place I’ll frequent quite often,” says the 41-year-old who is a perspective student planning to enroll in the College’s Transportation Training Services program to earn his Commercial Drivers License Class A to become a truck driver in the energy sector. “The center serves as a great opportunity for other student veterans to build camaraderie and talk about our personal experiences. It’s hard to relate to other college students who haven’t had the same experiences. Other student veterans respect you a little more and understand what you’ve been through.”
Cheryl Sutherlan, a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer currently majoring in General Management, also spoke during the event.
The June 14 ceremony ended with other student veterans posting flags representing the U.S. armed forces, along with the state flag and National Ensign, as part of Flag Day observations. Those students and the flags they will post include Martin Nelson for the U.S. Coast Guard, Ramiro Lopez for the U.S. Air Force, Demairas Vega for the U.S. Marine Corps, Dan Korus for the U.S. Navy, Alisa Arizmendez for the U.S. Army, Valerie Walker for the State of Texas and Breane Fillman for the National Ensign.
Last October, Del Mar opened its Veterans Services Office in the East Campus Harvin Student Center. The facility includes a Veterans Enrollment Specialist who assists individuals by providing information about benefits available to veterans and their dependents, including who may qualify and how to apply. That individual also assists with College admissions and registration and submits enrollment information to the Veterans Affairs Department so that students receive services and benefits supporting their higher education.
The College has served more than 1,058 student veterans and their dependents since opening the doors to the Veterans Services Office nearly eight months ago.
Del Mar College is also a designated “Military Friendly School” for 2012 by G.I. Jobs magazine, making the College among the top 20 percent of all schools nationwide that serve both U.S. military veterans and active duty members through higher education. This designation came after more than 8,000 other institutions across the country were screened.
IN THE PHOTO: Student veteran Breane Fillman walks the National Ensign down the center aisle as Tammy Miller, the College’s Veterans Center Coordinator, reads “Olde Glory” as part of the flag ceremony recognizing Flag Day on June 14.