Posted November 3, 2011

Veterans programs will honor Temple’s bravest

  • Military Appreciation Day ceremonies will be held at Founder’s Garden on Main Campus (above) and at the Ambler Learning Center auditorium.
  • A wreath honoring fallen service personnel on display at 2010 Military Appreciation Day ceremony on Temple's Main Campus.
  • Memorabilia on display 2010 Military Appreciation Day ceremonies at Temple Ambler campus.
  • Memorabilia on display 2010 Military Appreciation Day ceremonies at Temple Ambler campus.
  • Memorabilia on display at 2010 Military Appreciation Day ceremonies at Temple Ambler campus.

After driving trucks in convoys during two tours in Iraq, there is very little that rattles horticulture and art major HollyAnn Nicom.

Public speaking might just top the list. On Friday, Nov. 11, however, Nicom will stand in Founder’s Garden before fellow students, friends, faculty and staff to share passages from the journals she kept while serving overseas — “the most honest way that I can share what it was like when it was happening.”

Nicom is one of several Temple students, faculty and staff who will speak about their experiences during the university-wide Military Appreciation Day honoring both veterans and active-duty service personnel who have risked their lives to protect the freedom of our country.

“I think sometimes students don’t necessarily think of veterans as someone in their classes — it puts a face on the military and what we do,” said Nicom, 35, a veteran of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. “The reason I joined the military was to honor my father, who was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. I felt that I would be able to know him better if I experienced what he went through.”

Sponsored by Sodexo and the Temple Veterans Day Committee, Military Appreciation Day will be held at the Main and Ambler campuses on Veterans Day beginning at 11 a.m. At Main Campus, the ceremony, which will include a singing of the National Anthem, a color guard representing all branches of military service, and a presentation of 9/11 commemorative challenge coins to military participants, will be held in Founder’s Garden. A luncheon for veterans or those currently serving in the armed forces will be held following the ceremony in the Louis J. Esposito Dining Center at Johnson and Hardwick halls. The Military Appreciation program at Ambler will be held in the Learning Center Auditorium, with a luncheon to follow in Bright Hall Lounge.

“I have a lot of friends who are Vietnam vets, and I’ve seen firsthand that the war didn’t end for them when they left Vietnam,” said Sodexo Director of Operations Dolores Abbonizio, who first conceived of Military Appreciation Day in 2009. “I wanted to honor veterans at Temple, and Sodexo and the university have been so willing and so generous in their support.

“Our goal is to say ‘thank you’ to our soldiers — it is because of their sacrifice that we are where we are and able to do what we do.”

More and more returning veterans and soldiers still on active duty are choosing to pursue higher education. The number of students attending Temple with financial support from the post-9/11 federal GI Bill has doubled in just one year, and these students have become an integral part of the university.

“Temple has an extremely well-run ROTC program and large veteran population,” said Ryan Conklin, 26, who served in active duty with the US Army 101st Airborne Division for four years, in addition to serving with the North Carolina National Guard for a second tour in Iraq just prior to coming to Temple. “You look out for each other and support each other; that’s not something that stops when you get out of the service.”

Conklin, along with fellow veterans Matt Neri and Matt Parker, supported Fox School of Business and Management student and U.S. Army Sgt. Hyman Lee in founding the Temple Veterans Association (TVA), which is open to all students, faculty, staff and alumni who have served or are serving in the military. The organization was established to help veterans acclimate to the university environment by offering mentoring, networking and other opportunities for socializing with fellow veteran students.

“After the highly structured lifestyle of the military, it takes some adjustment to come into or return to an academic environment,” said Justin LoPiccolo, the TVA membership chair, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard. “There’s a base of knowledge in the TVA that you can pull from, students that have already been through the process of applying and taking courses and accessing your benefits, and they want to help you.”

“Especially in a school as big as Temple, you need a veterans association,” said Lee. “With the two wars, you’re producing a lot of veterans, and they’re coming to school.”

The TVA has enjoyed strong university administrative support from Debbie Campbell, senior assistant dean for the Fox School of Business; Mark Roland, advisor in the College of Liberal Arts; and Anthony E. Wagner, Temple University executive vice president, CFO and treasurer, all of whom serve as advisors.

“The military provides life lessons — leadership, perseverance, teamwork,” said Wagner, who served for four years as a deep-sea diver in the United States Navy. “Veteran students need to embrace their military experience, get to a university, dig in and get the most out of it.”

Mike McFall, operations manager for Campus Safety Services and a former Marine Corps sergeant who served with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam, said Temple’s continued dedication to its veteran students, faculty and staff has been “extremely positive.”

“Temple is there for vets,” said McFall, a member of the Temple University Veterans Day Committee and 23-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department. “I used the GI Bill to further my education and it was a wonderful experience. When I see our student veterans, I see a younger me — they walked the walk.”