RSCO Feature: The Veterans Association

Laren Reesman, Staff writer

Last week marked the anniversary of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, commemorating all those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

The civilian campus community may be surprised to know there is an active Veterans Association on campus with upwards of 70 members. The Mercyhurst Veterans Association (MVA) currently accepts full-time undergraduate and graduate active-duty or veteran students. The group seeks to help these students acclimate to university and civilian life in general.

The MVA also has a commitment to the Erie community veteran population and hopes to become more involved in volunteer and outreach programs. President of the MVA, Sterling Vahey, says to reach out to him or any other officers to be involved in community outreach activities geared toward veterans. In fact, they are promoting participation with the Veteran’s Service Organization in Erie for the holidays.

In collaboration with Wreaths Across America, volunteers will lay wreaths on the graves of over a thousand fallen soldiers across Erie. Each Remembrance Wreath will be placed on a grave while announcing the soldier’s name. Wreaths Across America will visit the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home on Dec. 18 and are seeking wreath sponsors and volunteers to help lay the wreaths starting at noon. So far, only 111 have been sponsored for Erie’s 1,332 fallen soldiers. The most common donation is $75 for 5 wreaths with each one priced at $15 per wreath. Vahey says this will be the MVA’s main activity this semester aside from normal meetings, but they hope to increase community-centered opportunities as the pandemic continues to wane. Vahey stresses the MVA’s importance as a place where members can bond as an older student population as well. Many veteran or military students start school after entering the military and serving for a time, meaning they are often older than those who come to the school immediately after graduating high school. Vahey says the MVA’s members are very academically focused and often receive scholarly accolades and other recognition while in school.

Veterans are an integral part of the Mercyhurst community as students, faculty and alumni. Even after service, they look for ways to serve those around them, whether it be in teaching, sharing expertise or connecting civilian students to future employers. Civilian students can also do more to recognize and honor those who have fought for them. Vahey says an easy way to honor veterans and active-duty students is to attend campus events like the flag raising and awards ceremony on Veteran’s Day every year or other larger events throughout Erie. He also says that simply stopping to thank a veteran and even asking about their experiences is another way to show interest and honor their service.

While civilian students may not be MVA members, pay attention to the Laker Launchpad for upcoming events and volunteer opportunities for everyone, and do not be afraid to thank Mercyhurst veterans for their sacrifices. Honoring those who have served or are serving in the military goes beyond one or two days a year. Remember them during the holidays as many cannot go home and remember the freedoms they fight for to protect Americans.