The Office for Military-Affiliated Communities (OMAC) hosted a private Veterans Day reception on Wednesday to commemorate the service of veteran students, staff and faculty.
With the intent of starting meaningful conversations, students, faculty and community members gathered in the Bing Concert Hall studio to listen to speakers, including professor of political science and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The speakers covered various perspectives of what it means to be a veteran, including commitment to their work and adaption to civilian life after service.
“I wanted to tell you that it really has a tremendous impact on our students who may never have known anyone who served in uniform — to watch them understand what it means to be committed to a cause, to have that kind of purpose, to have that kind of bravery, to make that kind of sacrifice,” Rice said. “I think it’s just an extremely important lesson for our young undergraduates, and so I’m just very grateful that Stanford has this community to round out and make more complete this great University.”
Rice also addressed the importance of the American military and certain changes she believes should take place, such as eliminating defense budget cuts.
“American military power cannot be absent from the equation because bad things happen when bad people think that there’s a vacuum,” Rice said. “The President of the United States must never say that we won’t use military power. People have to think we might.”
Navy veteran Sandra Kjono ’17, Air Force veteran Valerie Rivera ’17 and Army veteran Lorilyn Woods ’16 discussed some of their experiences and challenges as female veterans. They spoke about troubles balancing workloads at Stanford and learning to package themselves for life outside the military.
“We’re learning the language of the civilian world; we’re learning the language of our trade; but we’re also learning how to package ourselves,” Woods said. “In the military you’re the majority because everybody had the same experience that you did.
“And now being at school, being in the civilian world, you’re in the minority — which I found a great advantage,” she added.
These women ultimately found their role at the University and life after service, inspiring their peers and applying their unique experiences to instigate change within both the military and the University.
“When I came into the Air Force, I was hypersensitive to all the different unique talents that people brought, especially my fellow airmen that were enlisted,” Rivera said. “But one area that we really struggled to uncover was people’s ideas, the untested, unvalidated, better ways of doing things, and I wanted to find a better way for us to bring these talents to [use].”
The celebration of Stanford veterans and their significance in the community extends beyond just Veterans Day. As Navy ROTC Sandeep Arakali ’16 noted, understanding the military and humanity is a reminder to students of the importance of public service, but more importantly, of a cause greater than themselves.
Contact Taylor Hendrickson at thendric ‘at’ stanford.edu.