WCC student and Army veteran Sgt. Thomas Harris Jr., praised the efforts of Washtenaw Community College faculty and staff during a Veterans Day ceremony on November 8. | Photo by Kelly Gampel

 

By KELLY GAMPEL, Communications & PR

Military veterans were the focus of a pair of events at Washtenaw Community College in the days leading up to Veterans Day.

WCC Dean of Advanced Manufacturing and Public Service Careers Brandon R. Tucker — himself an Air Force veteran — said student veterans make WCC a greater place while he emceed the college’s annual Veterans Day ceremony in the Student Center.

“What (veterans) did not only affected our country, it enriched our community and I think we are a better college because of the veterans that we have enrolled and graduated from here,” Tucker said.

Student veterans also spoke at the event, encouraging and celebrating those who served. (See video highlights from the event.)

“You have all worn the weight of great responsibility and leadership; I ask you to continue to bare it,” urged Petty Officer Second Class JT Iacovetta, a Navy veteran and president of the WCC chapter of the Student Veterans of America. “Your peers look to your guidance within class. Your instructors look to your dedication in your studies and the administrators look to your maturity.”

Sgt. Thomas J. Harris, Jr., is thankful to attend a school that values its veterans. WCC is a gold-level veteran-friendly school according to the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.

“It means a great deal to have the (Wadhams) Veteran Center here,” Harris explained. “Being here at this school … we’re able to have that camaraderie with other veterans that I would not have if I had to just be out in the public with other students.”

WCC is one of only 94 colleges in the country with a dedicated VetSuccess on Campus counselor. That counselor is officially an employee of Veterans Affairs, but holds regular office hours on campus. Part of the recently passed Forever GI Bill includes expansion of that program.

The day before the Veterans Day ceremony, WCC hosted the annual Hire MI Vet career fair. More than 125 veterans and their family members browsed employers’ booths.

South Lyon resident Paul Stoll, a Navy veteran, found the hiring event helpful by networking with employers as well as receiving resources for programs. He said he was expecting a phone call from at least one employer he connected with at the career fair.

Ann Arbor-based moving company Handle With Care President Ray Astani said the work ethic and background of veterans are traits he looks for in good employees. Handle With Care was one of more than 30 companies represented at the hiring event.

“Veterans’ first need is health care. Second on the priority list is jobs, and that is where we come in,” Hire Mi Vet co-chair Don Deatrick said. Deatrick believes the military does a poor job of transitioning the “well-trained, highly skilled” members of military into the civilian world. “That’s the gap we’re trying to fill,” he said. l