The 11th annual Veterans Breakfast invited faculty, students, alumni, retired and active servicemen and women Friday to join the office of the president in honoring those who served the country.
Scott Buckman, second-term vice president of the organization, said the occasion is important because it enables the SVA to reach out and build community within the USC population of military-affiliated personnel.
Having been on active duty in the navy for eight years, Buckman said the SVA’s primary role is to advocate for and improve the quality of life for veterans in and around campus by raising awareness, providing connections to resources and creating transparency about veteran-specific issues.
Bobby Herpel, a third-year public relations student and secretary for veterans affairs in Student Government, echoed Buckman's words.
“It’s a community. It’s kind of nice; one of those things that, you know, a small chunk of America has gone through or experienced together," Herpel said. "They have that strong connection, and if you look around, all these seats are full. It’s really fantastic to see."
The Veterans Breakfast was first held in the Parking Services building 10 years ago and is the first of a weekend-long celebration for Veterans Day. Substantially growing as the number of dependents, spouses and service members grows on campus, the SVA sought to make a more holistic experience by including more events to build camaraderie among those connected to the military.
“Anybody who has served and got out, and whatever reason landed in Columbia, they’re more than welcome to be here, and we’re very happy to have them here," Buckman said. "It's not just about the SVA, this is an event that's about veterans. It’s not our event, it’s their event, and that’s why it’s really special."
In addition to the breakfast, there will be a president’s tailgate before the 7 p.m. Gamecock football game Nov. 9, during which a small group of student veterans will lead the team onto the field carrying the flags of the nation’s military branches.
Sunday, the SVA is hosting its second annual Veterans Day 5K, with proceeds going to Columbia Friends of Fisher House. The nonprofit organization provides accommodations and rehabilitation resources to families of injured servicemen and women in the Dorn VA service area in South Carolina.
Last on the calendar is the dedication of a parking space to Purple Heart recipients behind the war memorial Nov. 11, making the University of South Carolina the first in the state to have one.
University President Bob Caslen, with his own distinguished military career, was in attendance today. Paula Harper Bethea, special adviser for the advancement division, said he was excited to be present for his colleagues and "takes great pride" in the ROTC and Veteran Affairs programs.
“This is one of our favorite functions on campus each year, because how do we ever thank veterans for what they’ve done for all of us and the freedoms that we enjoy and our ability to learn in an open environment?" Bethea said. "This is the university’s way to say, 'Thank you. We remember; we’ll always remember.'”