Valley celebrates Veterans Day

As part of the national holiday, Valley College held a week of events for student veterans.

By Aimee Martinez, Valley Life Editor

Former Navy captain Daniel Coughlin's casket being carried into a hearse to his final resting place. Miramar National Cemetary. San Diego, Calif. October 28, 2020. (Photo By Ava Rosate/Valley Star)

Gone are the street processions and marching bands with crowds of spectators. In the age of COVID-19, virtual parades and celebrations honor the service of U.S. veterans.

All nine LACCD campuses were closed to observe the national holiday. To commemorate the day, Valley College held Virtual Veterans week where student veterans could socialize and learn about resources and services at the Veterans Resource Center Open House. On Tuesday, a presentation entitled “7 Months Later...How Are We Doing?” discussed how to recognize and cope with stresses caused by the events of the past year. On Thursday, CSU Fullerton’s Veterans Resource Center held an application workshop for veterans.

“We are grateful for our Veterans and student-veterans and we thank them for their selfless service to our country and for answering the call to duty,” wrote Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez in a Veterans Day message on the LACCD website.

For some student veterans, the 2020 year has brought added stress to an already taxing school experience. Marie Barros, a licensed therapist who works with veterans and spoke at the presentation, described a scenario of some of what she has heard. She explained that when soldiers are deployed, every day has a direct mission, a specific role. When they come back, the initial excitement of seeing friends and family dissipates into uncertainty as to what comes next. There is no focused direction, no support system; they are learning things they did not have to before. Sometimes, this can cause a bit of irritability and isolation. Whatever experiences they may have faced overseas — combat, MST (Military Sexual Trauma), etc. — begins to emerge and affect their relationships.

The combination of issues — with the added pandemic, social unrest, unemployment, etc. — could lead to anxiety, depression or worse, substance abuse and suicide. A USA Today article stated that army officials were concerned that the stress from the pandemic could increase the suicide rate this year. So far, the AP has reported a 20 percent increase in military suicides.

“One of the things that is very clear across the board for veterans is that they’re so great at helping their brothers and sisters in combat that they’re not always the best at helping themselves when it comes to mental health or giving themselves a break,” said Barros. “They’re very tough on themselves.”

Barros said the purpose of the presentation was to see where these students are and whether they are experiencing situations like this. Since there is a stigma to getting mental health services, she said they wanted to allow them to comfortably reach out and seek assistance if they need it.

Veterans Day began when the fight for World War I ended, on Nov. 11, 1918, when the armistice between the Allies and Germany went into effect. President Woodrow Wilson marked Nov. 11 as Armistice Day to celebrate those who died in service to their country. After World War II, veteran service organizations urged the government to expand the holiday to include the many soldiers who had sacrificed for their country and deserved to be celebrated as well. The term “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans” in the Act of 1983, which made Nov. 11 a legal holiday, and now veterans of all wars are honored.

“To us in America, the reflection of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory,” said Wilson on the first Armistice Day in 1919.

This past Wednesday, Arlington National Cemetery held their 67th annual observance over livestream, the National Veterans Memorial held an online ceremony through Facebook and the San Fernando Valley Parade — one of LA County’s biggest Veterans Day celebrations — held its event online.

For veterans struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255 to receive help from a trained responder. The Veterans Crisis Line website also provides an anonymous online crisis chat.

The District Board of Trustees stated in a resolution to honor Veterans, “From the beaches of Normandy, the snows of Korea, and the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq, our courageous veterans have sacrificed so that Americans and others can live in freedom.”

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