For the student veterans at Concordia College, service is a way of life. This year alone, Concordia’s veterans could be found beautifying the koi pond at Wartburg, scraping and repainting the porch of a supportive affordable housing unit for seniors, creating laundry sachets with inspirational notes for families in emergency shelters, and leading a campus donation drive to collect hygiene supplies and medical items for victims of Hurricane Dorian. The veterans among Concordia's staff and faculty are often seen volunteering alongside the students.
The transition from military to civilian life can be a difficult one. According to Viviana DeCohen, a U.S. Marine veteran and the College’s Director of Military and Veteran Affairs, giving back to others in need helps veterans reconnect with the sense of purpose they experienced in the military. Other students involved in Concordia’s chapter of the Student Veterans Association are survivors and family members of those who served, and are moved to honor them through their own service.
Concordia’s veterans don’t forget their own, either. They’ve collected supplies for local VA centers, organized spa trips for women veterans, and have put in place a program they call Operation Pay It Forward. The first gift in the donation chain came from a former student veteran, who offered a trove of new baby furniture and supplies. Concordia radiologic technologies major Rolfi Henriquez, a U.S. Army veteran, and his wife Aricely were thrilled to receive the items. The couple are expecting their first child, a boy, on December 30th, and are already planning how they will pay it forward.