By Katie Guyot
Thank you for your service.”
It’s a simple sentence ﾗ five words, six syllables, a line so familiar that it flies off the tongue almost instinctively every Nov. 11. But according to several of the attendees at Monday night’s Veterans Day panel in Philomathesian Lecture Hall, saying “thanks” isn’t thanks enough for the sacrifices made by the nation’s veterans.
The event, sponsored by the Center for the Study of American Democracy and organized by Devon Beeny ’15, was the first installment of what Beeny hopes will become a longstanding tradition of Veterans Day discussions at Kenyon.
“We celebrate Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate Constitution Day, but we’ve never really done anything for Veterans Day as long as I’ve been here,” Beeny said. “I think it would be a good thing to start, just having these kind of discussions on a more regular basis.”
Ryan Stewart ’08, who served in the U.S. Army between 2008 and 2012 as an armor officer, was the panel’s moderator. Since returning to Gambier in July to take the position of director of class giving in the Office of Annual Giving, Stewart has been working to form a veterans’ group on campus as a resource for the College and for fellow veterans.
The panel included veterans from a variety of military service branches and groups on campus, with Stewart from the Army, Kale Barber ’16 from the Navy, Manager of Facility Services Gary Sweeney from the Marine Corps and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Marie Snipes and Campus Safety Supervisor Gregory von Freymann from the Air Force.
“I come from a pretty big military family,” Snipes explained as she opened her PowerPoint of pictures.
All panelists emphasized the familial nature of military service under the volunteer system. Snipes, Barber and von Freymann, for example, each had two grandfathers in the service, and Sweeney still recalls the awe with which he beheld his father’s uniform before he earned his own upon enlisting in 1966.
“Patriotism ﾅ for me was growing up understanding what my dad went through,” Sweeney said.
Von Freymann said returning to civilian society after experiencing the “death and destruction” of the Gulf War was a “culture shock.”
“I wanted to go back in,” he said.
Now, von Freymann offers guidance to Kenyon students who plan to join the armed forces.
Barber was the only current student on the panel and entered the Navy directly after high school in order to pay for Kenyon. The Post-9/11 GI Bill paid for most but not all of his education, and he thanks the support he has received from Kenyon for his ability to attend the school today.
“Because of my financial background, Kenyon’s amazing financial aid covers the difference,” he said.
From the audience, President Sean Decatur asked the panelists how Kenyon could do more to support and connect with the veteran community on campus.
“It’s programs like this [panel] that I think will foster that plan,” Sweeney replied.
Several audience members expressed disappointment with the broader nation’s treatment of its veterans, especially with regard to the exploitation of veterans’ GI Bill benefits by for-profit colleges.
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Mary Suydam told the group she would like to see the civilian population do more to support the women and men who were honored on Monday’s holiday.
“Saying thanks is wonderful,” she said. “Let’s back it up.”
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