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Emory honors veterans, commitment to service in annual ceremony

Under a drizzly November sky, members of the Emory community gathered on the Quad to honor and recognize those who have served in the nation’s uniformed services in the university’s 15th-annual Veterans Day Ceremony.

Patrick Forrestal, president of the Emory Veterans Association and a graduate student in Goizueta Business School’s MBA program, served as the event’s master of ceremonies for the Nov.10 event. Following the introduction of the Honor Guard — which included Emory veterans and ROTC cadets — Will Gurtowski, a master of divinity student in Candler School of Theology in his seventh year of service with the Army National Guard, delivered the invocation.

Forrestal then offered a solemn reminder of what everyone in attendance was there to honor. 

“Veterans Day is not the same as Memorial Day,” said Forrestal. “Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives for our country. Veterans Day honors all those who have served our country in war or peace, dead or alive, for their service and sacrifice.”

Emory President Gregory L. Fenves spoke to the treasured tradition of the Veterans Day Ceremony, thanking the service members and sharing a personal story of his father.

After surviving the Holocaust, his father arrived in Chicago, IIllinois, and shortly after was drafted to serve in the Army.

“He had the opportunity to serve his new country as part of the U.S. Army forces in Germany, just seven years after having been liberated from the Buchenwald concentration camp by that same army,” said Fenves.  

Fenves’ father also found success after his military service thanks, in part, to the GI Bill that allowed him to pursue an education.

“That’s just one story,” said Fenves. “There are countless other stories of veterans who have given everything for this nation and found support and opportunities after their service. At Emory, we are proud to be part of that tradition, and want to make sure that veterans of this country know this campus welcomes them with open arms.”

Fenves also highlighted the newly launched MBA for veterans program and Emory’s longstanding tradition of providing health care services for veterans.

“At Emory, our mission is to serve humanity, and that also means serving those who serve humanity,” Fenves said.

Ravi Thadhani, executive vice president for health affairs at Emory, expanded on Fenves’ comments about health care. He pointed to a variety of programs that demonstrate Emory’s longstanding tradition of supporting veterans. Thadhani mentioned Emory’s membership in an elite group of universities to train nurses for work in the Veterans Affairs (VA) system, the six-decade collaboration with the Atlanta VA health care system and the Emory Veterans Program’s partnership with the Wounded Warriors Program.

“We at Woodruff Health Sciences Center are incredibly proud about the fact that we employ, care for and support our veterans community, our service women and men in this community, as well as those that decide to come and get their care and work in our systems,” said Thadhani.

Keynote speaker Maj. Gen. Burke Whitman, who is retired from the United States Marine Corps, highlighted the beneficial relationship that service members have with Emory University, the nation and the world. 

“We salute the university because Emory educates, informs and supports current and future service members, and we celebrate with the university because it benefits so much from the service members of veterans who study, teach and work here,” said Burke. “Likewise, we salute our service members and veterans because they contribute bright minds, character and unique experiences that enhance the educational and formational activity that goes on here.”

Whitman then provided examples of similar goals shared by both Emory and service members, ranging from leadership skills to critical thinking to prioritizing the common good. He also acknowledged the importance of Emory’s continued commitment to honoring veterans.

“With an event such as this, a globally influential university such as Emory can shape the communities and the world’s nations, and the world’s understanding of what is important about service,” said Whitman. “Without such enduring support from Emory, our Armed Services could unravel. Our nation could become less influential, and freedom and moral virtue across the globe could cede its ground to evil and human depravity.” 

Reflecting on the importance of honoring service

Attendees of the Veterans Day Ceremony noted the importance of holding such a visible event to honor the often-invisible service and contributions of veterans.

Mark Nevitt, a Navy veteran and associate professor in Emory Law, said the ceremony was important to him because of his family’s history of service.

“I’m a third-generation veteran. Both of my grandparents served in World War II, my dad was in Vietnam and I did 20 years in the Navy. Every November 11th, I always take time to remind myself about not just my service, but the service of others,” said Nevitt.

Nevitt also noted his appreciation for the continued support and effort put into the annual Veterans Day Ceremony.

“I think it showcases the energy Emory has and the support it has for this community,” said Nevitt. “It means a lot to me as a veteran who is now in the faculty.”

Karen Forbes, a commander in the U.S. Public Health Service, was a member of the ceremony’s Honor Guard. As a primary care provider with the VA, she sees patients who served in Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

“Participating in the ceremony made me feel really good to be with other uniformed service and armed service officers and paying respect to the veterans who have served and retired,” said Forbes.

Life Griffith, an Emory Law student, served for 19 years as a combat medic, military police and member of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. He noted the importance of this ceremony honoring veterans because many will never understand the realities of service.

“People say, ‘thank you for your service,’ but they never know what our service truly is,” said Griffith. “The ceremony is a very important event and I’m glad that they are doing it here on the campus.”

Emory’s resources for veterans

The 15th-annual Veterans Day Ceremony highlighted many of the resources available to veterans at Emory.

Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing was selected to participate in the Veteran Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership (VANAP), an elite program through which undergraduate and graduate nursing students gain valuable training in providing quality healthcare for our nation’s veterans.

The Yellow Ribbon program supports post-9/11 veterans by providing funding to supplement educational expenses beyond what is covered by the G.I. Bill.  

Through the Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans, service members can access pro bono legal services to address a variety of legal issues, ranging from estate work to discharge upgrades before the Department of Defense.

In May 2024, Goizueta Business School will officially welcome the first cohort to the new MBA program designed for veterans.

Veteran employees across Emory are welcome to participate in the Emory Veterans Employee Network (EVEN), designed to promote a sense of belonging by Emory veterans through organization, recognition, networking and resources.

Army or Air Force ROTC are options for undergraduate students interested in military careers. The cross-enrollment agreement with Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University allows students to complete their undergraduate degrees at Emory and military training at Georgia Tech.

The Emory Healthcare Veterans Program provides free, confidential treatment for eligible post-9/11 veterans and service members living anywhere in the United States regardless of discharge status, deployment history or length of service.

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