June 16, 2019

Student Veterans Welcomed at Brunch

Student Veterans

Members of the military who attend College of Southern Maryland either during or after their service are treasured Student Veterans at CSM. Recently, the college staged its annual Veterans Brunch, during which guests drove one by one under a 20-by-30 American flag draped between the extended ladders of two local firetrucks.

The flag was a fitting community welcome for the college’s veterans as they arrived on the Prince Frederick Campus to share a meal and hear from keynote speakers who paid tribute to their service.

“It’s little surprise that within the state of Maryland, Southern Maryland has among the highest proportion of veterans when compared to its adult population within St. Mary’s, Charles, and Calvert counties,” CSM Vice President of Operations Bill Comey told attendees of the Nov. 12 event. “At the College of Southern Maryland, with more than 700 students using Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits, CSM ranks fifth in the state for colleges serving current and former military service members and their families.”

Mr. Comey, who grew up in an Army family, took a moments to share stories about his family’s military service. “My father served in the Army, as did his father; and his father and so on back to when the first Comey in America – David Comey – mustered out onto the Village Green in Lexington, Massachusetts, to face the British Army,” he said.

When Comey’s dad died last year, he left a number of family relics to his sons, like a bugle, a prayer book, campaign medals, and a flag, all of which Mr. Comey displayed for attendees.

“These items celebrate the life of my great-grandfather Bernard Comey,” he continued. “In 1895, as a young man he sailed to Cuba to take on the Army of Spain as part of the Spanish-American War. He was a 23-year-old bugler in Company B, 2nd Massachusetts Regiment. In those pre-electronic days, the role of the company bugler was to communicate orders to the troops. Advance. Retreat. Fire.”

One of the prized family heirlooms was a letter from which Mr. Comey read that was written by his great-grandfather on July 5, 1895, from Santiago, Cuba.

“Reading these words – thoughts from a war-weary, but proud soldier on the battlefield longing for home – helps me imagine what many of you also experienced or felt while you served our nation,” he continued. “It helps me in some way to better appreciate the sacrifices you and your families made to keep America safe and protect the freedoms our nation enjoys.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, please accept our appreciation for your honorable and faithful service,” he told the crowd before welcoming keynote speaker Maryland State Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller.

“On this day, we remember the freedoms we have because of our veterans,” said Sen. Miller, who encouraged the veterans in the room to engage with government. “We need you to follow up your service and continue to help our government,” he said, noting that veterans made great sacrifices to support the country’s ability to legislate.

“My father was with Patton’s third Army, I grew up at an American Legion Post, and the very first bill I sponsored was the Veterans Cemetery bill,” Sen. Miller continued. Appreciation was also expressed from Calvert County Commissioner-elect, CSM alumnus and Vietnam veteran Tim Hutchins, and state Senator-elect and US Air Force veteran Arthur Ellis.

Students from Huntingtown High School performed at the brunch with a presentation of colors by the school’s NJROTC Color Guard, followed by an acapella rendition of the national anthem by the Huntingtown High School Choir, directed by Sandra Griese. Calvert County Fire Service Chaplain Larry Patin offered the invocation and CSM Student Veterans Organization President Jeremy Foster guided attendees through the “missing man and honor ceremony” in remembrance of the nation’s prisoners of war and those who are missing in action.

“Not only do we honor and celebrate the contributions and sacrifices of these individuals, but we also want to recognize their families,” said Mr. Foster, who served in the U.S. Army and is in his third year at CSM, dually enrolled at UMUC in the cybersecurity program. “Today is certainly an appropriate time to celebrate the contributions of military families and to convey to them respect and appreciation for the sacrifices they make to support their service members.”

The college’s commitment to veterans is reflected in many ways. CSM is approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Maryland Higher Education Commission, allowing eligible veterans, servicepersons and certain dependents of veterans to receive VA benefits for credit certificate and associate degree programs plus some Workforce Development programs.

A lounge for student veterans to gather, study, and socialize is available at the La Plata Campus and CSM has several veterans affairs coordinators to advise students. Veterans receive a 15 percent discount on tuition for individual fitness and pool memberships.

For the fourth consecutive year, CSM has earned the Military Friendly School Designation from Victory Media for attracting and supporting student veterans and spouses as they transition from the military to civilian workforce. To learn more about CSM’s veteran and military support services, visit CSM’s website.

For more about the College of Southern Maryland, visit its Leader member page.

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