The university marked Veteran’s Day with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new Veteran and Military Center of Excellence, a "one-stop shop" for military-affiliated faculty and students to gather and access campus services.
"It's really an outreach of the university to our veterans," President Bob Caslen, who served in the Army for 42 years, said. "Really, in my opinion, it's to symbolically bridge the civ-mil gap that exists not only in our nation and state but right here on the university campus."
The center will be located on the first floor of Byrnes Hall on Sumter Street.
Previously, the campus had a location for veteran's benefits to be processed and a separate student veteran lounge in Thomas Cooper Library. The Veteran and Military Center of Excellence provides a consolidated location for these services, as well as others such as career and disability services.
"It truly is that centralized, one-stop shop location that can support our veteran and military population from the time of they're thinking about coming to USC to the time they graduate and go out into the workforce," Jared Evans, the director of military engagement and veteran initiatives, said. Evans also served in the Marine Corps.
The university is also working with community partners and the Department of Veterans Affairs to have a Veterans Affairs representative on site.
Scott Craig, a student veteran working to complete his degree in computer engineering, said before the center student veterans had to "run all over the campus" to access these services and that as "non-traditional students" they didn't have a place to settle on campus.
"It'll be nice to have a quiet place with people you can identify with to continue to succeed in Carolina," said Craig, who was awarded a Purple Heart for his Army service after medically retiring due to injuries.
The ceremony began with the presentation of the national colors by the university’s ROTC detachment, followed by the singing of the national anthem by Brooks Herring, a student veteran and doctoral candidate in physical therapy.
Herring served in the U.S. Navy for six years and said he is "encouraged" and "inspired" by the evolution of the ways the university serves its student veterans in the past six years.
"Today at the University of South Carolina, we make a statement to our veteran and military family that we don't just know you're here. We are grateful that you are here," Herring said.
Caslen ended his speech asking the audience to reflect on the many sacrifices of the "men and women who have stood in the gap" this Veteran's Day.
"It's up to us to lead a life for which they have sacrificed for our freedoms and for what we stand for here as a nation," Caslen said.