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'Freedom is never free'

By Kyle Langhurst
On November 30, 2015

Students, faculty and staff write messages of thanks and appreciation to veterans in honor of veterans day. The banner will be placed in the window of the veterans Lounge on the third floor of Iowa Hall. Photo By Jeff Sigmund.

Veterans currently serving or previously serving in one of the five branches of the United States military were recognized on both the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids campuses Wednesday, Oct. 11 in honor of Veterans Day. 

Discussing planning of the event, Vicki Terronez, Veteran Services Coordinator/SCO, said, “I wanted something that involved the whole student body, faculty, and staff.” 

Student Life contributed a banner reading, “KIRKWOOD THANKS YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE”  that all students, faculty, and staff were welcomed to use as a way to express their appreciation for military service members. Some signed their names, while others wrote messages like “You are appreciated more than you know. Thank you!”  or “Thank you for defending us!” The banner will replace last year’s banner in the window of the Veterans Lounge on the third floor of Iowa Hall. 

Terronez also organized a ribbon tree to be placed outside The Café in the Iowa Hall atrium. Red ribbons were tied by all to show support and thanks to servicemembers and veterans. White ribbons were tied by those honoring a specific family member or friend who has served or is currently serving. Those who tied blue ribbons were veterans showing respect to fellow veterans. Black ribbons represented those who were POW/MIA. A ribbon tree was also placed at the Iowa City campus. 

Counseling services for veterans and their family members were also provided by the Cedar Rapids Veteran Center.  

 “When you say to a veteran, ‘Thank you for your service and sacrifice,’ sometimes they don’t know what to say back,” said Terronez. “They feel they haven’t done anything, this is their job.” 

Terronez has worked in the Veterans Affairs department for 12 years and is the wife of a veteran herself. “This is about us recognizing our veterans.”

Since 2009, Kirkwood has provided its veterans with a quiet, low-traffic area on the third floor of Iowa Hall known as the Veterans Lounge. Terronez said the area includes six computers, a refrigerator, two microwaves and study tables. Exclusively for current or previous service members, she said it is a space for “veterans helping other veterans,” a place for “camaraderie.”

Kirkwood veteran Marc Pearson, nursing, said his most memorable experiences during his time of deployment to Iraq involved fellow Army members. “You meet people who stay in your life and they’re like family, like blood,” said Pearson. 

Reflecting on his departure to Iraq for nine months, Pearson said he was “scared of not coming back.” He said he was prepared for the experience by learning combat life-saving skills during his time stationed in El Paso, Texas. Like many other veterans deployed for service, Pearson said he left behind his family and girlfriend at the time. 

Pearson continued to explain the culture shock he experienced while overseas, describing it as “hot, dry and filthy.” However, Pearson said it became a lot easier to live than he expected. 

A veteran for three years now, Pearson said he joined the military to find direction and serve his country. Obtaining his CNA prior to enrolling in the military, he is now continuing his education in nursing. 

According to Terronez,  698 veterans are using VA benefits to attend school at Kirkwood, though not all choose to do so. “They are very humble,” she said. “Every day is Veterans Day for me.”

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