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College Holds Annual Veterans Salute Nov. 11

2015 PCC Veterans Salute

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College honored the nation’s military veterans Wednesday with a ceremony that featured remarks from retired Navy Rear Admiral Gretchen Herbert.

Herbert, who retired in 2014 after a 29-year career, lauded those who attended PCC’s 18th Annual Veterans Salute and said it is important for the country to remember the contributions and sacrifices made by its military personnel.

“We’re here to pay tribute to those who served in uniform and sacrificed much to ensure that we remain a free people; a free people – free from fear, free to live our lives, free to speak our minds, and free to worship as we believe,” Herbert said.

There are approximately 22 million veterans living in the United States today, representing WWII and every war America has fought in since. Herbert pointed out that many of those vets volunteered to defend the nation after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

“Our nation has been at war for almost 15 years,” she said. “Millions of Americans have joined the armed forces since Sept. 11, 2001, knowing full well that they were headed for combat, and hundreds of thousands of them deployed multiple times. These 9/11 veterans, as they’re called, are young, many are women, and many have suffered significant injuries.”

While advances in medical care over the years have saved more American lives in times of war, Herbert said a significant number of combat veterans are returning with wounds that are both complex and difficult to diagnose, such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“The stark fact,” she said, “is that both TBI and post-traumatic stress can hinder our veterans’ adjustment back into society. Many veterans may be reluctant to seek our help or even be aware that they have an injury. And even more insidious, those injuries can go undiagnosed and unnoticed far longer than injuries to the flesh.”

Thankfully, Herbert said, America has done an about face with regard to its treatment of veterans. While Vietnam veterans often found hostility and disrespect upon their return home, she said today’s vets are “often treated like rock stars” and deservedly so.

“Luckily, our society now separates the warrior from the war,” she said. “Regardless of what we might individually feel about our nation’s involvement in past conflicts, we collectively recognize that the men and women who raised their hands and swore to protect the Constitution and our way of life deserve our respect, our admiration and our gratitude. They’ve earned it.”

Herbert said it is everyone’s responsibility to provide veterans with the support they need to readjust to civilian life, adding that many of them miss the camaraderie they experienced in the armed forces and the sense of purpose that military service gave them.

She praised PCC, which has been deemed “military-friendly” by G.I. Jobs magazine, for its dedication to serving veterans and providing them with opportunities to serve the community.

“The great schools … make first contact with every military-connected student in the first few weeks of the semester,” she said. “You don’t wait for them to come to your door; you seek them out.”

PCC President G. Dennis Massey, who welcomed attendees to the Veterans Salute, said Pitt strives to “create a culture of trust and connectedness” for the nearly 400 veterans and dependents of veterans that are currently enrolled. He said the college recently made a significant commitment to those students by providing full-time funding for a veteran outreach specialist position to directly serve them.

“That is a significant move, and I think it shows and displays how much we care and want to support the veterans who are on campus,” Massey said. “… We know (college) is challenging. That’s why we’re making this commitment of staff time, and we will continue to work on improving the conditions for veterans here.”

In addition to Herbert’s presentation, this year’s Veterans Salute, which was organized by the PCC Student Veterans Association, featured a slideshow of current PCC student and employee veterans, and a JROTC Color Guard from South Central High School. The group PCC Diminished Impressions sang the national anthem, and the PCC Chorale performed “America, the Beautiful.”