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Chico State honors veteran community

Anna Sobreviñas

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Former Army Cpl. Stanford Smith, former Army Sgt. Hank Snow, retired Army Staff Sgt. Joey Turner and retired Master Chief Petty Officer Stan Haley. They are members of the Chico Veterans Honor Guard. Photo credit: Anna Sobreviñas

Students, staff, faculty and community veterans shared their military experience during the university’s annual “Honoring Our Veterans” event Friday.

The event was held on campus at Colusa Hall as an early celebration for Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

“These are individuals who have agreed to donate their lives to our country,” said Stan Haley, 81, retired Navy master chief petty officer. “It is very important that we honor these people.”

President Paul Zingg attended the event as the guest of honor and said student veterans are important to the university because they teach other students honor, courage and citizenship.

“They teach us every day those things,” he said. “In many respects we’re here because of the sacrifice of all of our veterans. It’s a powerful reminder of that history.”

Zingg shared a story about his father, who fought during WWII.

His father was a part of a military training group that helped Chinese forces against the Japanese invasion of China in 1942, he said.

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Chico State President Paul Zingg wears his veteran father's Bronze Star and Purple Heart medal in honor of his father and Veteran's Day. Photo credit: Anna Sobreviñas

Zingg wore the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals his father received for capturing a Japanese general during the war.

After Zingg’s speech, Chico State student veterans shared their military experience and transitions of coming back to study at the university.

Aithne Loeblich, a junior biology and ecology major who served four years in the Air Force as an intelligence analyst, said it was a difficult transition coming back to school but she found help at Chico State.

“When you come back, there’s not really anyone to help you through the transition,” Loeblich said. “But here at Chico State, I’ve actually found a whole family to help me through.”

When Loeblich was still in the military, she volunteered at Yuba College with a professor who was working with bats.

She became interested in being a wildlife biologist and decided to attend Chico State, she said.

James Smith, senior international relations and history major, said veterans bring to campus a more well-rounded view of the world that is not in textbooks and television shows.

“They bring a lot of maturity and a very different perspective than the perspectives we’re particularly used to in this world, and it’s important for other students as well because it gives them a different viewpoint to consider the things they learn here at college,” he said.

Smith served in the Marine Corps as a cryptologic linguist specializing in Arabic. He led the cake-cutting ceremony, a tradition where a military sword is used to slice the cake.

The first slice was given to Zingg to recognize what he contributed to the community. The second slice was given to the oldest military veteran, Haley, to recognize his history and accomplishments.

The third slice was given to Haley again who then presented it to the youngest veteran, junior international relations major Charles Curtis, as a representation of passing down experience, knowledge and tradition to the new generation. Curtis, 20, was a reserve Marine corporal.

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Larry Langwell, Air Force veteran and Chico State Veterans Affairs coordinator, said Chico State is in the top 10 percent of schools in the country that provide services to student veterans, such as giving academic credit for military service and assisting them in their transition to civilian life and in the university. Langwell hosted the event this year.

“95 percent of our veterans are first generation to college, so they don’t have that big support group in their family,” Langwell said. “About the same percentage are transfer students, so they don’t fly out of the military and jump right on the Chico State campus.”

“There are about 600 student veterans on campus — $7 million worth of benefits every year,” Langwell said.

On the same day, the Chico State Student Veteran Organization held a fundraiser in front of Plumas Hall.

“Today we’re honoring veterans,” said Hazel Rodriguez, senior recreation administration major and the organization’s technical officer. Rodriguez served in the Marine Corps for four years as a corporal.

“Veterans Day is coming up so this is our day to go ahead and do that and just show our face that we’re involved in the community and that we’re supporting veterans from all walks of life — young students to older graduates,” Rodriguez said.

Anna Sobreviñas can be reached at [email protected] or @manilanna on Twitter.

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Chico State honors veteran community