By Inesha Howard & Shellie Smitley | Staff
The Walk to Remember and Veterans Day Celebration took place on Nov. 10-Nov. 11 on the Summerville campus.
“I feel that this campus needs a little bit more veterans’ awareness,” George Richie said at the beginning of the walk.
Ritchie, cadet sergeant, said he made a decision to walk for the entire 24 hours. He said he did it for the veterans’ sakes. He packed a backpack with snacks, rain ponchos and music.
By 8 p.m., Ritchie had walked for nine hours and said he felt tired but he had no second thoughts about walking all night.
“The group of airmen that I saw walking, it was nice to see them come out and show their support,” Ritchie said.
He said he only stopped once or twice and ate granola bars while he was walking. He sang while walking with some of the other cadets.
At 11:08 p.m. Ritchie said some of his fellow cadets were on campus helping to keep him motivated.
“I have been taking more and more breaks because I am getting more and more tired,” Ritchie said. “Not tired like sleep, but my legs are starting to give out on me, so I am taking breaks and walking another mile and alternating like that.”
Ritchie said he thought about a lot of different things while he was walking.
“Not only how fortunate I am to even be doing something like this because of those veterans (but), I see a lot of the historic sites around here, because this used to be an arsenal,” Ritchie said. “And I start to think about their lives and the lives of the veterans in the cemetery.”
At 7:20 a.m., the final 3 ½ hour stretch of the walk, Ritchie said although he continued to walk throughout the night he had to walk in shifts because of soreness.
“It’s going good,” Ritchie said. “I made it through the night, I didn’t sleep through the night…”
He said he walked with Capt. Kenneth DeMars, an associate professor, during the night and spoke to him one-on-one.
“I felt that led to better development of myself as a cadet,” Ritchie said.
Jake Padgett, cadet battalion commander, said students, staff and community members could sign up to walk a one-mile loop around Summerville campus for as long as they wanted, up to 24 hours, in support of Veterans Day and to promote awareness of the ROTC program at GRU.
He said the event was concluded with an awareness rally on Nov. 11. Participants paid a registration fee that included a t-shirt and a meal.
Carol Giardina, director of Military & Veterans Services, said that the Office was in the process of planning a celebration when Cadet Anthony Herrera from the ROTC program contacted her to ask if her department was interested in partnering with the Ranger Club to celebrate Veterans Day at GRU.
“Cadet Herrera and some of his fellow cadets came up with idea, “Walk to Remember,” followed by a ceremony,” Giardina said. “Our department staff members thought Cadet Herrera’s ideas were excellent and we began working with him to promote the events.”
Giardina said there are veterans on campus who are not using all the services or benefits they have earned. They will become more aware of their benefits and reach out to the Office of Military & Veterans Services as well as other veterans’ service organizations because of awareness events.
“There are kind of two separate things,” Padgett said. “We are working in conjunction with Veterans’ Affairs, but the money that we raise from the people that actually signed up for the actual walk is going to the Fischer House Foundation. Then the Veterans Affairs, it is my understanding, that whatever they raise from their hot dog sales and things like that, that money will go towards their scholarship opportunities separate from ROTC for veterans.”
Padgett said raising awareness of the sacrifice that veterans make brings a sense of patriotism and camaraderie to the campus.
“I think that sometimes college students forget about all the sacrifices that have been made by veterans so that they can keep their freedom,” Padgett said. “It’s important that those people get recognized.”
Willie Walker III, cadet captain, said part of the reason that he walked for two hours is that his granddad is a veteran who served for over 20 years in the military.
“This is a good way to not only show my support for veterans, but also show that our ROTC campus here, that we support them,” Walker said. “So we really want to make them aware especially for Augusta and this campus.”
Giardina said that this event was very special to her. She said that she had not served in the military but she is the daughter of a veteran, a mother of a veteran and the grandmother of an active duty service member.
“My dad served during World War II, his brother served in Korea and my son and grandson served combat tours for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom,” Giardina said. “I am very proud of my family and their history of service.”
Chaundira Wynn, cadet sergeant, said that she is a veteran who served in South Korea and thinks the event is a good cause.
“I am actually very passionate about the military itself,” Wynn said. It is something that’s very close to my heart, it got me out of a bad situation, it gave me my education and even after I was discharged, it still helped me as far as housing as far as getting me where I need to be…”
Padgett said that in his opinion a veteran is anyone that has raised their right hand and taken a military oath and sacrificed for the U.S.
“Most of us take our freedom for granted and often we take those who protect our freedom for granted,” Giardina said. “I hope that by celebrating Veterans Day at GRU our veteran students, staff and faculty will realize how important their service is to each of us.”
Contact Inesha Howard at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Shellie Smitley at: email@example.com.
Published on January 28, 2016 in Volume 58, Issue 5 of The Bell Ringer newspaper.