URI holds annual ceremony to commemorate Veterans Day

Pictured: from URI’s Feinstein campus, art from the Veteran Stories gallery. PHOTO CREDIT: Aidan Cahill | Staff Photographer

On Nov. 10, the University of Rhode Island held an annual Veterans Day ceremony on the Quad to commemorate the contributions of all veterans and service members. 

Robert Flynn, the newly appointed director for the Center of Military and Veteran Education (MAVE), was able to introduce distinguished speakers at the event. Flynn, a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy for 28 years, taught at the Naval War College for eight non-consecutive years before joining URI in November.

The speakers included Kasim Yarn, Rhode Island’s first Director of Veterans Affairs, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos and Tracy Santos, the president of the Student Veteran Organization (SVO). 

Flynn further explained that although all service members were recognized, Santos was able to highlight the veterans and service members of color who served before her. 

Before studying at URI and holding the position as president for SVO, Santos served in the Marine Corps for 10 years, five of which were active duty, before becoming a reservist and Sergeant. She is currently a fourth-year clinical neurology major at URI.

“I could have talked about my own accomplishments, but I wanted it to be more than that,” Santos said. “So I talked about the achievements of the people of color before me that gave me the ability to wear my uniform and gave me the ability to do what I’m doing now.” 

Santos named individuals, including Hazel Johnson, the first Black female general, Cpl. Joseph H. DeCastro, the first Hispanic medal of honor recipient, and Medgar Evers, an American civil right activist and veteran who fought for desegregation in schools and worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1950s and 60s.

Santos emphasized the importance of these events to not only celebrate veterans, but also to remember their sacrifices to the country and volunteer when others could or would not.

Luke Snow, a second-year criminology and criminal justice major, currently serves for the National Guard Air Force. Although he was unable to attend the event, he said that he values the importance of honoring our veterans. 

“I can see how some active service members who attend events like this one after getting out or retiring and do not know anyone in college may be able to find some people either the same age as them or who have gone through similar experiences,” Snow said. 

He mentioned that some veterans find it difficult to integrate back into civilian life and college life after they have served. He believes these events may allow those seeking community to find it.

“When I first came to URI, I went on the school website and went to their military section because I’ve heard of schools having military lounges, and I found SVO, which happened to be on the third floor of the Memorial Union,” Santos said. “It was like this little room, and I walked in there, and there’s one person.”

Santos described her own struggle to find a sense of community, and after only discovering one person in this department, Santos sought to make SVO and MAVE the hearts of military-affiliated students here at URI. 

“I think this is just the beginning, and to be completely honest, this is something that we should have had, you know, a community space for student veterans because at the end of the day,” Santos said. “If we don’t have that sense of community, a lot of us give up.”

Santos said she hopes to continue to keep this center thriving. According to her, the Center has already grown tenfold since she first came to URI. She is excited about future events that will bring military-affiliated students together.