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Veterans Appreciation Night Salutes Sacrifice, Service of Vets

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Hundreds of family members, friends, fellow veterans and Cal State Fullerton faculty and staff members were on hand to honor student veterans Saturday, April 28, at the 11th annual Veterans Appreciation Night.

“Your stories matter,” said Clint-Michael Reneau, associate vice president for student affairs, as he welcomed the crowd. “What we know matters, but who we are matters more. How we engage, reach out … all that is based on our stories.

“To our veterans, thank you for being here tonight. Thank you for your grace, your tenacity, your assurance … We are so grateful that you chose to make your story part of the university’s story.”

Reneau also noted that the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) is a leader, not only regionally but nationally with a focus on proactive wellness and support of student veterans achieving their career goals.

Patrick Cortes, president of the Student Veterans Association (SVA) this spring, described the impact that the group had on him.

“After my military service, I attended community college and it was a rough transition. I was closed off, anti-social,” he admitted. “I went from barking out orders to being afraid of making a presentation for a group project.

“When I transferred to Cal State Fullerton, I talked to veterans about the SVA. Here I found a sense of camaraderie, advocacy and service to community. We would meet with elected officials to discuss veterans’ needs. We provided community service by cleaning beaches, supporting the Ronald McDonald House and writing letters to children encouraging them to seek higher education. To the vets here tonight, keep up the good work.”

Glendo Kerol, president of SVA in fall 2017, spoke about his experiences. After serving two overseas deployments — Africa in 2011/12 and Afghanistan in 2013, the Marine Corps became like his family.

“When I finished my deployment, I came to Cal State Fullerton and was hired as a student assistant in the Veterans Resource Center,” he said. “We all have a story to tell and our stories are all different. But what we have in common is that we’ve taken a risk. Were you fully prepared for boot camp or basic training? Were you prepared for your deployment? Were your families prepared for not knowing where you might be deployed or what you might be doing?

“But there are three lessons I’ve learned from this,” he continued. “Take a risk. Don’t be afraid. Challenge yourself.”

Veterans in the Class of 2018 include (all are earning bachelor’s degrees unless noted):

  • Marshall Bowen (child and adolescent development)
  • Bruce Cao (business administration)
  • Johnathon Ciaccio (business administration)
  • Ryan Chadwick (criminal justice)
  • Patrick Cortes (business administration)
  • Chris Dixon (psychology)
  • Anthony Escobar (electrical engineering)
  • Frank Felix (art)
  • Jamal Fletcher (psychology)
  • Marissa Garza (communications)
  • Brigette Granados (master of social work)
  • Glendo Kerol (business administration)
  • Matthew Kessler (communications)
  • Kevin Lam (kinesiology)
  • Arnold Molina (human services) 
  • Joseph Morales (criminal justice)
  • Daniel Nannery (business administration)
  • Erick Ortega (business administration)
  • Sarah Palencia-Bollinger (human services)
  • Zach Pinney (kinesiology)
  • Michael Romero (computer science)
  • Elliott Rouff (public administration)
  • Mauricio Ruiz (psychology)
  • John Ryan (master of science, information technology)
  • Johnathon Nguyen (business administration)
  • Ana Santillan (history)
  • Jessica Summerlin (criminal justice)
  • David Valdiva (communications)

Two students are the recipients of $1,000 Veteran’s Scholarship for Success Awards: Scott Randell and John Cairns. The recipients of $500 Marisol Ramos scholarships are Rachel Glusak and Jacquelyn Camuy.

In addition, 15 Orange County Real Estate Veterans Initiative Scholarships were given to student veterans who have exhausted their GI benefits. Kelsey Waters and Kyra Smith received Student Veteran Association service medals and Titan Warrior Wellness honor chords for their contribution to the wellness program.

The center also acknowledged the work of those who, over the years, have helped develop the Veterans Resource Center and other programs to assist veterans.

They included Lorraine Thornburg,  lecturer in human services; Susan Leavy, a prior director of the WoMen’s Center; Catherine Ward, interim director of the Veterans Resource Center; Lui Amador, director of the Veterans Resource Center from 2014-17; and Melissa Romo, the center’s program and services coordinator. They all touched on the vision of Joseph Chang, founder of the Student Veterans Association and founding coordinator of the Veterans Resource Center.