DOBSON — There is no better way to learn the meaning behind the song “God bless America” than watching a group of veterans sing it, and sing they did Friday afternoon at the annual Surry Community College Veterans Appreciation Day luncheon.
Student Government Association President and Student Trustee Audrey Mahan opened the luncheon by telling the group of more than 60 vets and their family members, which almost filled the Knights Grill, she wanted them to know they were welcome and that “we all appreciate what you’ve done. We are really glad to have you.”
Mahan said around six from the SGA volunteered to “wait on them and cater to them.” She said service to others was what her group was all about.
“We are so grateful you have allowed us to honor you,” said Surry Community College President Dr. David Shockley. “All of the freedom we enjoy day in and day out are all directly tied to your service. We will always be grateful for your service.” Shockley said it was important to pass their values down and “never ever forget” what veterans had accomplished.
He told the group the school is creating a veterans center this year to help them achieve their educational goals and he hopes this will be completed in 2014. Director of Campus Life and Student Support Tony Searcy told the veterans who hadn’t received an official welcome the luncheon was just this and said he wanted them to know their service was appreciated.
Surry Central High School Air Force Junior Officers Training Corps cadets Derrik Brown, Chandler Musson, Henry Johnson, Alicia Bartolo and Cherokee Staples performed a flag-folding ceremony for the group and the Presentation of Colors. The folding ceremony used each fold in a series of 12 folds to describe subjects such as perseverance, respect and truth.
Veterans Affairs Coordinator Tammy Fletcher appeared excited about the proposed new facility and said recent remodeling at the school had made the expansion possible.
“We’re hoping to make a larger area for veterans’ services, possibly including a lounge area and space for computer work stations,” said Fletcher. “We won’t know more about the work space until a few walls get knocked out. We are hoping to make in an area where veterans can enjoy fellowship or work on assignments. We want it to welcome them.”
Fletcher said much of the work was being handled in-house at the school, and saving government processing fees from aiding veterans also will help with the expansion project.
“I’ve talked with our students who are vets and they are excited,” Fletcher said. She noted that the new facility will have more room for information and brochures to help vets know what services are available for them. She said the school plans to start a veterans club or association as well. An open house for the new center also is planned for the future.
“We do a lot more than people know we do for veterans,” said Fletcher. “We try to go the extra mile for our veterans and we try to make them feel this is their home.”
The luncheon concluded with veteran and performing artist Melvin Speas performing songs representing each branch of the armed forces.
In other veteran-related honors for Surry Community, Victory Media, a media entity for military personnel transitioning into civilian life, has named the college to the coveted Military Friendly Schools list for a fourth consecutive year.
The 2014 Military Friendly Schools list honors the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus.
Vice President of Student Services Randy Ledford said he feels SCC does a good job helping veterans and Fletcher’s approach emphasizing treating them with deserved respect is a big part of the school’s success in this area.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1952.