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Monday, November 16, 2009

UNCP celebrates its veterans with a banquet on November 11

U.S. Army Special Operations Commander Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr. addressed the 2nd Annual Student Veterans Appreciation Banquet on Veterans Day at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr.

Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr.

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A three-star general, Mulholland applauded UNCP’s student veterans and encouraged the campus Student Veterans Association to become “a more powerful voice” for veterans returning to civilian life.

A military historian by training Lt. Gen. Mulholland noted that Pembroke, as an American Indian community, is a uniquely military community.

“The American Indian tradition is an important part of who we are,” he said, noting arrowhead patches on both arms.

In his remarks, Chancellor Charles Jenkins said Pembroke, with its annual Veterans Day Parade, is also a military-friendly community.

“When I arrived on this campus, I learned very quickly how important Veterans Day and military service is to the Pembroke community,” Chancellor Jenkins said. “Our American Indian community has served in the military with distinction.”

Chancellor Jenkins helped establish both Air Force and Army ROTC programs on campus and, when federal funding dried up for a period, he helped find other funding sources to keep the programs alive.

About 75 veterans, ROTC members, active military personnel and guests attended the event that was sponsored by UNCP’s Center for Leadership and Service (CLS). No combat rations here, the banquet featured roast beef with all the trimmings.

CLS Director Aubrey Swett was the master of ceremonies. A Marine veteran, Swett also serves as coordinator of the new Veterans Education and Transition Program.

The new G.I. Bill is expected to bring a new wave of student veterans and family members seeking to earn degrees.

With a satellite campus on Ft. Bragg, UNCP has earned accolades from several national publications for being “military friendly.” The Student Veterans Association and the veteran fraternity Sigma Tau Gamma are working to meet the needs of transitioning soldiers.

Several themes threaded through the evening with a variety of veterans.

University Attorney Joshua Malcolm, an ROTC and UNCP graduate and Air Force veteran, discussed the meaning of service.

From left Dwight Brewington, winner of the Pembroke Point 2009 Distinguished Student Veteran Alumni Award, Aubrey Swett, coordinator of UNCP’s vet program, and Clint Haywood, a vet, grad student and officer of the University’s Student Veterans Association.

From left Dwight Brewington, winner of the Pembroke Point 2009 Distinguished Student Veteran Alumni Award, Aubrey Swett, coordinator of UNCP’s vet program, and Clint Haywood, a vet, grad student and officer of the University’s Student Veterans Association.

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“I sent out an email today to my buddies, some still serving, thanking them for their service,” Malcolm said. “I’ve been out almost 10 years, but you never lose that bond.

“My father used to say that serving in the Army was the best thing that ever happened to him, but I didn’t understand him at the time,” he continued. “Serving in the military was the best decision I ever made.”

From a University perspective, Malcolm said the Veterans Banquet is an important event.

Mark Hunt, an Air Force veteran and administrator in UNCP’s Center for Academic Excellence, echoed some of Malcolm’s reflections.

“The military was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Hunt said. “As a young guy, it was either the farm or the factory, so I chose to see the world.”

Lindberg Bullard, who served from 1958-62 in the Marines, said he was pleased to learn he was welcome to attend the banquet.

“I’m retired now and loving it,” he said. “I found out about this program from my daughter-in-law who works at the University.”

Fawn O’Leary Heitman, a 2002 UNCP graduate currently in the Master of Social Work program, brought her 2-year old daughter.

“After serving six years, I am working on my second master’s degree,” Heitman said. “My husband, Eric, has done six tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, so it’s tough to be back in school.”

Will Cornett, a Marine vet, is a junior business major at UNCP. He finds veterans are a growing presence at the University.

“There are a lot of vets here,” Cornett said. “I tend to hang out with them, and I joined Sigma Tau Gamma.”

Clint Haywood, a Marine and Navy vet and 2009 UNCP graduate, awarded the Pembroke Point 2009 Distinguished Student Veteran Alumni Award to Dwight Brewington, a senior information technology major and disabled veteran. Haywood. is treasurer of the Student Veterans Association.

Pembroke Pointe, a student housing company serving Pembroke, sponsored the award and banquet.

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