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Emory honors veterans in annual ceremony, focuses on serving others
EVP photos from the ceremony

The Emory community gathered in Cannon Chapel on Nov. 11 to celebrate Emory’s 14th annual Veterans Day commemoration and reflect on what service means — both in and out of the military. 

Matt Ball, an MBA student at Goizueta Business School, served as master of ceremonies. Ball welcomed attendees and initiated a moment of silence for Armistice Day and all those who have served. The Honor Guard, consisting of Emory veterans and Army ROTC cadets, saluted the flag during the national anthem.

Ravi Bellamkonda, Emory University provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, offered the introductory remarks. While not a veteran himself, Bellamkonda spoke of his deep love and admiration for the United States.

“You might think my love for this country comes from opportunities, and that’s true — it’s been very kind to me and my family. But my affection comes from a deeper place. I love the idea of America. Its optimism. The pursuit of happiness. I imagine there is a similar love for those who choose to serve our nation and its ideals.”

Bellamkonda closed by focusing on the veterans in the Emory community. “At Emory, we’re proud of the work we’re doing to support our veterans and families and to have more than 200 military students who are enrolled here. To all the veterans here today who have served, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service and thank you for keeping the ideals of America alive.”

Guest speaker Matt Wain focused on continued service for those around you. Wain is the CEO of Emory University Hospital, Emory University Orthopedics and Spine Hospital, and Emory Wesley Woods Hospital. He is also a retired United States Army helicopter pilot who served in the Army and National Guard from 1988 until his retirement in 2008 as a major. 

“I’d like to think that we aren’t what we did, but that we live as we served,” Wain stated. “It’s an idealistic calling for many of us, surrounded by the pursuit of peace through strength, our ability to deliver peace across the globe and to ensure our neighbors are free. For many of us, we served as best we could — and that continues today.”  

Wayne also recognized family members and other supporters. “As veterans, I think we have it easiest. There’s a day for us. A yellow ribbon when we leave. Yet there is a family member, or spouse, or someone who loved us and should be remembered today. They were willing to support us and our calling at a time when there was uncertainty and their own difficulties, but they spent that time being able to serve us.”

Continued service for, and by, veterans

Service and gratitude were also top of mind for other ceremony attendees. 

Don Cornwell, director of career services for Emory College and chair for Emory Campus Life Veterans Committee, is an Army veteran. Today, his service has taken the form of supporting veterans at Emory — both highlighting what the university already offers as well as identifying gaps that could be filled.  

“I connect student veterans with resources that are available to them, assessing their needs, coordinating with other veteran support around campus, and ultimately celebrating the veterans that are here, highlighting their contributions to the university,” he explained. 

Next, Cornwell is working to roll out a needs assessment to identify how this population likes to be worked with, what activities and programming would be most beneficial, and what existing strategies are successful. In other words, how to better serve them. 

“It’s closely tied to the Emory Student Flourishing initiative,” he said. “It’s helping them feel comfortable with their chance to contribute to an academic setting, and student veterans have so much unique experience outside the classroom that they bring. We want to help them identify professional pathways and find that purpose in life after Emory.”  

Glen Castillo, an active-duty Marine Corps Captain and an MBA student at Goizueta Business School, embodies Cornwell’s hopes for student veterans. 

“For me, Veterans Day is about giving thanks and paying homage to all those who have come before us and made it possible to be here today,” he said. “When I was considering what I wanted to do moving forward, I found that Emory was a great fit for me to pivot my career from active duty into business. So far, that’s been true.” Castillo is looking forward to bringing his unique perspective from the military into his classes and, eventually, into the business world. 

When it comes to Veterans Day, Jerome Miller considers how others have helped him. “I think about the other guys whom I started off with in the military when I was just a junior officer,” he shared. “I modeled my instructor technique after my own training officer, and I instructed the way they instructed. I know there are young pilots who are still benefitting from those techniques.” 

Miller, who is pursuing a law degree at Emory, was a Marine captain and MV-22B Osprey pilot — positions that he said are overwhelmingly held by white men. “As a junior officer, it was hard to find role models, but there were senior pilots who took me under their wings,” he recalled. Miller began reading about organizational leadership, race, and race in the military and especially connected with “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. Miller also turned to his father, a Navy officer who was the first Black officer on a submarine, for advice. 

And just like Wayne suggested, Miller’s current goals are all about service, too. Growing up, he wanted to become a lawyer to help people. On his second deployment, he received a letter from an elementary school in Kennesaw, Georgia. “A little girl had written, ‘Do you have anything to be thankful for? I do, it’s being able to get an education as a Black female, and not having to be a slave.’ It really centered me and brought me back to my goals in life.”  

Miller still has that letter. He plans to initially work at a law firm and then use the network of lawyers to build an organization to support Black students who want to pursue careers in the legal field. 

Emory’s support for veterans

Through the Yellow Ribbon program, Emory provides funding to help post-9/11 veterans pay for educational expenses beyond what is covered by the G.I. Bill. Learn more about veterans education benefits at Emory.

Undergraduate students planning military careers can participate in Army or Air Force ROTC through a cross-enrollment agreement with Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University. Students complete their undergraduate degrees at Emory and military training at Tech.

The Emory Healthcare Veterans Program, part of the Emory Brain Health Center, provides expert, collaborative care for post-9/11 veterans and service members dealing with a variety of mental health concerns, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, depression and anxiety. Treatment options include traditional outpatient and intensive outpatient programs that integrate care in multiple areas including psychiatry, neurology, sleep, rehabilitative medicine, wellness and family support.

Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing is one of 18 nursing schools nationwide selected for the elite Veteran Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership (VANAP) through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Undergraduate and graduate nursing students selected for the program gain valuable training in providing quality care for our nation’s veterans.

The Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans provides pro bono legal services for veterans, assisting them and their families with legal issues including disability claims before the Veterans Administration and subsequent appellate proceedings, estate work and discharge upgrades before the Department of Defense.

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