NANTICOKE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)– At Luzerne County Community College (LCCC), they’re celebrating Veterans Day but it’s not just one day out of the year that they are taking care of their vets.
Students, staff and local veterans gathered in the Schulman Gallery in Nanticoke for an intimate but powerful presentation.
“It’s more of an appreciation thing. You can see it around with all of these people here,” said former U.S. Navy veteran Matthew King. “They’re very appreciative of what we’ve done as veterans.”
For students like Ryan Evans, it’s a time to represent his new family and pay respect to brothers and sisters in arms.
“That first few months I got out of the service, i was really depressed. I started getting involved, here, in student government. Last year I did a veterans suicide awareness speech and a 9/11 speech. Just being able to know that they have me in mind when they want someone to do this kind of stuff really makes me feel appreciated,” said Evans. “It’s a small way for me to give back to the guys that are still over there working. What’s recognized here is that if you were someone who was in the service, you’re someone who we can rely on and that’s really awesome.”
The college has cultivated a reputation as one of the most military-friendly schools in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“That’s what we really have been working towards, to make our veterans who have served this county,” said college president Thomas P. Leary. “To make sure they have an environment where our arms are open and we’re saying ‘whatever you need, whatever support you need to achieve your goals, we’re here to serve you.'”
That commitment to veterans is reciprocated by students like King, a veteran corpsman who says he put five years of his life into earning his G.I. Bill.
“To me, this isn’t just going to school and furthering my education,” he said. “To me, this is my job, at this point. The grades that I get are like my job performance.”
Veterans transitioning back to civilian and student life face challenges emotionally and physically. Sometimes having discipline and training is a challenge, itself.
“Don’t get me wrong, there’s days where I want to shake some of these kids because I hear people complaining about finals week and I’m saying ‘you don’t know what stress is. That being said, rather than get mad with them, I try to provide a different perspective for them,” said Evans. “I say ‘Hey man, there’s worse stuff you could be doing right now. You’re trying to better your life. So rather than try to be mean to these kids, or talk down to them, I want them to understand that what they’re doing now is awesome. Sure, it’s going to be difficult sometimes but you could be on deployment, right?”
While Veterans Day is a major celebration for the community, there’s a commitment that stands year-round.
“Every day, it’s so important that we live the words that we are expressing today,” added Leary. “I think that here at the college, we’ve learned more and more and become aware of how important it is for our veterans to be served in a way that allows them to be successful in their new pursuits.”