By Allan Parker
“TIME TO MOVE OUT!” A phrase familiar to every Soldier, Marine, Sailor, and Airmen who’s ever served in the armed forces. Normally associated with a Drill Instructor wearing a round brown “Smokey the Bear” hat barking orders at the top of their lungs to “Shut the F… up, ruck up, and move out”.
To many of John Jay’s veterans, this usually meant swinging a 50 to 100-pound ruck-sack onto your back in 100 degrees plus heat, grabbing your rifle and patrolling through a deadly hostile environment with automatic weapons fire whizzing by landing too close for comfort.
Many endure this to proudly serve the country while motivated by the belief that you’re doing your part to spread democracy and helping to free innocent people from the yoke of tyranny.
Servicemen and women alike have had similar experiences, both positive and negative, and have returned home with the expectation of returning to school to complete their education. Many seek out the “American Dream” promised to those citizens of this great country who have sacrificed all in the name of honor, duty, courage, integrity, commitment, selfless service, and respect. Yet there are still major issues that need to be addressed for veterans at John Jay.
Due to the temporary closing of North Hall at the end of the spring 2016 semester, the Veterans Association Club will be forced to relocate to Haaren Hall in the New Building. Marc Harary, Director of John Jay’s Office of Space Planning, said “It’s up to CUNY Central to determine its future use at this time.”
Though most vets are grumbling about the move, everyone is grateful for the new accommodations including Elaina Ferguson, a Student Veteran, who said “It’s unfortunate that we have to leave our current spot. It’s private and laid back. In between classes I have a place to hang out, study for a test, use the computers, and talk with other vets who can relate to both the good and bad challenges we face.” She also said, “I hope the new space John Jay gives us is big enough to fit us all in, so we can have privacy when we have our meetings.” A notable motto of servicemen “adapt and overcome” has been encouraged in spite of the situation.
The offices of the Veterans Association, headquartered in the third floor of North Hall, has been an oasis for recently returning veterans who are making the adjustment back to civilian life.
Gary Tsai, Vice-President of the Veterans Associations Club said, “Veterans hear of the club sometimes through personal knowledge of the Veterans Administration or word of mouth from other vets and they come check us out” Tsai explained.
“Our doors are open to everyone, not just to student veterans but also to all students who are offspring or siblings to those who are currently serving or have served, and also to anyone who wants to find out about the military way of life. Everyone interacts to tell war-stories, how they’re personally coping with stress, job networking, sharing vital information, goals, dreams, and hopes for future plans. Everyone’s welcome.”
One worry is the new office space being allocated for the veteran’s club itself. Richard Pusateri, the Military and Veterans Services Manager at John Jay, thinks “The new space will make us more visible. Overall it’s a much more attractive location with better lighting that makes it more inviting to vets and family members of vets. Where we’re at now is tucked away and hidden, the new space allotted will increase awareness to people that we’re here and remind those of the services we provide. If someone needs advisors or counselors for whatever reason, it’s much easier to just walk them down the hall and seek out whatever is required. I think this will better suit our needs”.
Though larger in overall square feet than most of the other clubs, the Veterans Association Club is more than just a club, not to mention its membership is deeper and more diverse than any other club.
Unlike the other clubs, which classify by national pride, entertainment, special interests, sports, and hobbies, the Veterans Association Club encompasses all of those characteristics.
The Club invites students of every race, creed and color of law enforcement, first responders (which most are), musicians, athletes, student scholars, chess masters, comic book enthusiasts, all sexual orientations and everything not mentioned under the sun. Because of the Club’s sizable numbers, classroom max capacity, and possible fire code violations, the association will not be able to lodge a substantial portion of its membership during meetings and events.
Another significant concern is the privacy factor in regards to the separate and combined gender support groups for male, and especially female veterans, who have closed door meetings to tackle issues exclusive to their needs. Female veterans above all will be impacted by this change of venue, because they may be forced to hold privately run meetings away from the familiarity of the Club, inviting civilians into their setting.
In the Club’s present site, separate and combined gender meetings are held furnishing the forum to freely vent frustrations without incident or judgments. Both male and female vets have had unique experiences, which only professionals or other vets can relate.
According to Jose Comulada, President of the Veterans Association Club, “We’re all appreciative and thankful for John Jay’s understanding”. Still some feel special consideration should be extended since it’s not only a club, it’s an association that performs outreach to fellow student veterans. Jose says it best “The Veterans Association Club is the only place where vets help vets”.
For more info, go to the Veterans Association Club at Haaren Hall Room 228.