Showing Veterans appreciation and respect

Showing+Veterans+appreciation+and+respect

Jenny Gonzalez

Veteran’s Resource Specialist Glen Pena said, “[Veteran’s Day] means honoring those who have served and paying respect to the men and women who have made sacrifices, and the families as well, not just the veterans.

“Veteran’s Day to me means paying respect to those who served thanking them and letting them know that we appreciate that they made all the sacrifices. I’m a veteran but I pay respect to veterans regardless of when they got out.”

He added, “I respect Vietnam veterans because when they came home they weren’t treated well, so they always tell me ‘thank you for your service,’ I [say] ‘No, thank you for your service. Sir, you have no idea that you paved the way for things to be better for us.'”

Veteran’s Day Celebrations events were held all week, but the culminating event was a special ceremony to honor those that served in the military.The event was held Thursday, Nov. 10, a day before Veteran’s Day. Approximately 50 veterans were in attendance.

Vice President of Student’s Veteran Club Gaylen Currie said, “The celebration was free flowing [and] inclusive. It is always good to have other non-traditional students like ourselves be able to spectate or participate, so inclusiveness is always good.

“[Veterans Day] is a sign of remembrance and reflection for individuals who have served in the military, and reflection for members of the families of the individuals that served, and to kind of sit back and reminisce about the good times and the bad times and celebrate because it is a celebratory day,” Currie said.

Pena explained the significance of a support system for veterans.

“A veteran would not be a veteran or a service member would not be a service member without the support of their families or friends.That is why a lot of people who get out, who don’t have social support end up committing suicide,” he said.

The veterans present at the ceremony did 22 push-ups to honor those veterans who have committed suicide. The number represents the number of veteran suicides committed daily.

“Social support is the biggest factor to successfully transition out of the military and that is what the Veterans Resource Center has. Assistants call it a therapeutic environment, and it is. We come here and get our work done, but it’s more… it’s a camaraderie we built in the military, you [also] find outside the military” Pena said.

Pena will not be able to celebrate due to his school schedule, but he hopes that he can speak in his classes and by doing so, he hopes he will be able to raise awareness for Veteran’s Day because USC does not observe the holiday.

He plans on reminiscing with some photos of when he was deployed to Iraq and will contact his former Marine colleagues, especially those who he has not heard from in a long time.

Pena served nine years and one month in the Marines. He retired as a sergeant and served in a unit called ANGLICO. The acronym stands for Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.

He only deployed one time from 2005-06, and before he was set for a second trip to Afghanistan, he found out he had a tumor in his neck so he was not able to deploy again.

He said, “I’d do it [deploy] again, especially with these guys here. I wish we could have served together. It’s such a good time. I love these guys. This place is therapeutic and it is a stress reliever.”

Pena has attended Cerritos College for approximately three years. He expressed that by helping veterans he realized that was the field he wanted to work in. He is attending USC to obtain two masters degrees, one in social work and the other in public administration.

He said by doing so he, “Can advocate for veterans in the public sector, I can run a social security office, help the veterans get their disabilities that way or go to the VA and work there.”

He wants to help veterans because he thinks that some veterans don’t know what is available to them and by being a veteran himself, he is able to help.

Pena began working in the Veterans Resource Center in 2011, by first being a tutor in 2012 for a year and a half, and was then promoted to his current position as a Veteran’s Resource Specialist.

He works, goes to school, interns and has a family. He said, “Work, interning, school and studying is 75-85 of hours a week. I give my kids maybe 1-2 hours Monday-Friday at night to do their homework, play a board game or something and then on the weekends I spend 12 hours at the library Saturday and Sunday.

“When I can manage my time well enough during the week, we will go out for 4-5 hours. It is rough right now, its just stressful, but I [have] do it right? So I’m grateful for the VA [because] everything is paid for. I don’t have any student loan debt and my kids… get to go to school for free too,” he said.

Some people choose not to observe or acknowledge the holiday or the veterans, and Pena expresses that it is not their fault. He believes that institutions should promote the awareness for the holiday.

He added, “[For] those people who don’t know anything about Veteran’s Day or have any idea what it means, I would say educate themselves.

“All it takes is five minutes to find out what it means, and what it means to others. Read a quote, talk to a veteran. but most of all, if you are not a veteran, and you know of Veteran’s Day, educate people and what it is and advocate for veterans even if you don’t believe they fought for your freedom, they are human beings that put themselves out there. Even if you don’t appreciate a veteran, just respect them. Cerritos College does a great job. We have the best campus Veterans Resource Center than anywhere I’ve been,” he said.