The Whittier College Veterans’ Club, met last Friday to celebrate both Veterans Day and the Marine Corps’ birthday in the Campus Inn. One of the club members, fourth-year Adrian Delgado, was also celebrating being accepted into Officer Candidate School in the United States Army after graduation. It was the club’s inaugural event, one of the first times they gathered officially as a group to kick-off their mission of making the College a more military conscious and friendly place.
They began by meeting informally, connected through the Veterans Affairs Office. Third-year student, Marine Corps veteran, and Vice President of the Veterans Club, Raymond Johnston said, “We really just started by having breakfast together.” Some of them met in Dr. Fred Bergerson’s class, Warfare: In Pursuit of Military Security over Janterm last year. Right now, the group has about five student members who have all served or are planning to serve in the United States Armed Forces. “We find comfort in each other — having that shared background helps,” said Johnston.
The idea to create a veterans’ club came from the unique experiences those members of the armed services share. “There’s certain things we say that you wouldn’t really normally say to someone else. We understand each other,” said third-year and Marine Corps veteran Aaron Mendoza. The club is new, and still working out the kinks, “Hopefully we make all the mistakes so all the ones that come after us don’t have to worry about all that,” said Mendoza. Right now, they are working on getting ready to put on fundraisers and have recruitment events on campus.
Another proposed project for the club is to take bikes that Campus Safety has confiscated over the years and fix them up to donate to a veterans’ organization. The Veterans’ Club also has an intramural flag football team, which they are hoping will allow them to “get out there and mingle with students, to show them that we’re nice people,” said fourth-year Army Reserves member and President of the Veterans’ Club Jeff Lee. Lee attended Whittier College before going into the Army, and is now using the Veterans’ club to help draw in more military members.
The Veterans’ Club plans to work with the Veterans Affairs Office to recruit other veterans to attend Whittier College, and to make the transition process from military to college easier. Case Manager for the U.S. Veterans and Dean of Students Employee Fernando Lopez is the club’s advisor. He works with veterans on campus to ensure their paperwork and GI bills are going through so that they get the benefits they deserve. An example of this is veterans getting priority registration for their classes because they have to submit paperwork to the VA in regards to how many credits they are taking per semester. These processes take time, so the school gives them access to registration earlier than most students.
The efforts to make the campus more military-friendly seem to be effective. Veterans’ Day and the Marine Corps’ birthday was an important milestone for the club and the College. The club reached out to Bon Appetit, asking to buy a cake for their event. “[Bon Appetit staff] sang the Marine Corps hymn. It was awesome, [they] knew every word,” said Johnston. “They made the cakes for us and we didn’t have to pay. They reserved a table for us. Every time we reach out to them, they’re so nice.”
The Veterans’ Club meets Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. on the first floor of the library and is open to all students.