Remembering Veterans

A number of events in November honor and serve veterans; plus a visit from Gold Star Mothers

                                                                                                                                                                                       Photo by Aimee Blodgett | USF News

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 31, 2013) – November is a busy month for veterans at USF along with their fellow students, friends and families.

Beginning with the solemn occasion of Veterans Day, a special ceremony will be held Nov. 5. 11 a.m. to noon at the Marshall Student Center Amphitheatre. A USF Tillman Scholar will serve as the master of ceremonies for a program that will include remarks from Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Miller and a keynote address by the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Mike Prendergast. Refreshments follow the program.

The following day, Nov. 6, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Amphitheatre, the 4th Annual Chili Cook-Off sets out to find the best chili chefs at USF. This event is organized by the Office of Veterans Services in partnership with the Student Veterans Association.

Colonel Kevin McElroy (left), the head of the Air Force ROTC program with two AFROTC cadre members at last year's Chili Cook-Off.

USF Office of Veterans Services Director Lawrence Braue, U.S. Army (Ret.), observed, “While participants and attendees enjoy a day of food, fun and friendly competition, the event serves an even bigger purpose as it helps student veterans integrate into the academic community and build relationships with faculty staff, and other students on campus.”

Then during the next week, veterans are encouraged to sign up for anEmployment Readiness Workshop sponsored by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), which will be held Nov. 13 in MSC Ballroom C. A free iPad door prize is being offered by PwC.

“This is an exclusive event and a great opportunity,” said Braue. “Veterans can learn what this international corporation, with more than 18,000 employees worldwide, suggests to better prepare themselves for a career. Veterans can also learn about the employment opportunities that are available through this company.”

A Veterans Outreach Expo takes place the next day, Nov. 14, in the John & Grace Allen Building Breezeway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., co-sponsored with the Vet Success on Campus program.

“For this event, we bring in outside agencies that serve the needs of veterans so that student veterans, active duty members, and veterans’ dependents can explore VA benefit options, and learn about job resources, health services and other important benefits,” Braue said.

Participating agencies have included: The Vet Center, James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Veterans Benefit Agency, and VA Health Agency. For this year’s event, the VA mobile clinic will be onsite. “Donation of an iPad by Wounded Warrior Project is expected to drive attendance and may be utilized as an incentive for student veterans to visit tables hosted by participating agencies, sponsors, etc.,” he added.

Nov. 16, the Veterans and Military Appreciation Football Game at Raymond James Stadium features USF vs. Memphis. The Office of Veterans Services has partnered with USF’s Athletic Department to sponsor this event which will honor all veterans and highlight USF Tillman Military Scholars and the USF Student Veterans Association.

Commencement time features a special Veterans Fall Graduation Recognition Celebration Nov. 25.It is hosted at the Alumni Center prior to the USF vs. Oklahoma State basketball game.

These are just some of the activities that go on throughout the year designed to help veterans get the most out of their time at USF.

Another remembrance

Fallen soldiers were also remembered earlier in the semester when USF’s Naval ROTC students received a visit from Gold Star Mothers, Inc. The Gold Star Mothers program was started after WWI in 1928. Another organization, Gold Star Wives, was started by and for the widows of fallen soldiers during WWII.

 Gold Star Mothers Annette Kirk, Toni Gross and Lorri Fleming visited with USF Naval ROTC  midshipmen in September.

“They had reached out to USF about informing ROTC students about the significance of Gold Star families since many even in the military are not aware,” said John Sarao, CDR USN (Ret.), acting executive director of the Joint Military Leadership Center. Sarao. “They really enjoyed the opportunity to meet, talk with and, in a sense, hug our students who reminded them of their lost ones in many ways.”

The Gold Star Mothers showed a brief video followed by a short presentation and a question and answer session with the students.

One of the mothers, Toni Gross, wrote following her visit to give her thanks for the warm welcome. “I was blessed to be able to hug and shake hands with many of the students, all of them reminded me of my son, Cpl. Frank R. Gross,” she said. Her son lost his life in Afghanistan.

She continued, “Capt. (Bradley) Hawkins was personable and accommodating as we met with him. ...I was impressed with his introductory presentation yesterday, speaking ofthose who stay behind and support their beloved service member...wives and mothers, children, brothers and sisters.” Gross is the first vice president of the state chapter and chapter president of the Tampa Gulf Coast North American Gold Star Mothers, Inc..

Annette M. Kirk, listing herself as “proud Gold Star Mother ofPFC Paul O Cuzzupe II,” also expressed her thanks, “We were all very impressed not only with the beautiful facility but your gracious staff.If there is anything the Gold Star Mothers can do for you, please let us know.” She serves as Tampa Bay-Tampa Chapter president of the organization.

“Since 9/11, the Mothers have organized more,” said John Sarao, CDR USN (Ret.), acting executive director of the Joint Military Leadership Center. “It’s a great support group and way to honor their sons and daughters.”

For more information about veteran-related events, click here or visit

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563