Veterans at Washington College

By Emma Way
On Nov. 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. an armistice went into effect marking the end of “the war to end all wars” or World War I. Now nearly 100 years and a few wars later we honor America’s troops for Veterans Day every year on the same day.
The U.S. currently has over 200 thousand Americans stationed overseas, but that doesn’t mean Veterans Day doesn’t touch Washington College and Chestertown community members. “It is important to bring Veterans Day to campus… [to] honor the sacrifices of our brave men and women.  We have our freedom because of them,” said Shawn Isenegger, a senior and president of WC’s Veterans Association.
One way the College honors veterans is through the C.V. Starr Center’s StoryQuest program, which allows students to collect the oral histories of community members. In conjunction with Veterans Day, students interviewed World War II veterans over the summer and then displayed these stories at the RiverArts Studio Gallery in a project titled, “Home Front, World War II: Chestertown Remembers.”

A display from the 2014 Veterans Day celebration.
A display from the 2014 Veterans Day celebration.

The gallery opened on Nov. 6 and will continue until Nov. 14, located at 315 High St. One goal of Storyquest is to document stories from the WWII era before it is too late and those stories are lost.
Director of Public Safety Jerry Roderick was one of the participants in Storyquest, collecting his father’s story of serving in WWII. “I had only heard little bits and pieces of my father’s experience. I was number seven out of eight kids so he had already told that stuff to the other guys,” he said about the process of gathering information about his father’s service by talking to his siblings.
Remembering veterans goes beyond telling their stories, however, which is why WCVA found a way to show their appreciation to veterans on Nov. 11 with their annual Veterans Day dinner in the dining hall where all veterans ate for free. Since the club’s creation in 2013, WCVA has been a support system for veterans at WC and throughout the Eastern Shore, and it has found ways to give back — the Veterans Day dinner is just one.
“WC also recognizes those veterans that have served during the meal. That’s been a recent development that the veterans group on campus helped to coordinate, now in it’s third year,” said Director of Public Safety Jerry Roderick.
Although there are few student veterans on campus, there is a push to create more resources for veterans in order to support veterans who want to pursue higher education and attract more to come to WC, said Roderick. According to Gene Davis, an Iraq War veteran, Public Safety officer, and student at WC, a veterans resource center may also be in the works.
Davis joined the military after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but now wants to find ways to support and honor veterans on campus. He and Jay Griswold, former interim president, passed the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success last year on Nov. 11 to ensure continued support of veterans at WC.
The veterans’ population on campus used to be much larger, according to both Roderick and Davis, and they hope to build campus-wide resources to grow that population once again. “In 1946, our veteran enrollment was about 125… Somerset dorm was actually built to house veterans,” Davis said. “I think it’s going to increase with the number of troops coming home.”
“I believe serving our veterans as they have served our country is a duty,” said Isenegger. According to Davis, part of serving veterans and the purpose for WCVA is to support one another through their education and act as each other’s advocates.
Although the country recognized and honored veterans on Nov. 11, it is important “to remind people of the amazing sacrifices that were made,” everyday, said Roderick. Student organizations like WCVA and programs like Storyquest work year-round to tell veterans’ stories of sacrifice and provide a necessary support system on campus.

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