Since the 2022 Russian invasion, Ukraine’s veteran population has increased from roughly 500,000 to over 1.2 million and counting, yet the country’s ability to support its servicemembers has declined due to the war’s impact on the economy and infrastructure. Two…
Office of Veteran and Military Affairs Celebrates Graduating Military-Connected Students
The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) welcomed the campus community to the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC) on May 12, for a day of celebrating the academic achievements of graduating military-connected students.
The day started with an early morning at the Student Veterans Commencement Ceremony. Approximately 216 military-connected students graduated from their academic programs in 2023, or will graduate over the coming summer months, earning undergraduate, graduate, law and doctoral degrees, as well as completing advanced certification programs from the University’s thirteen schools and colleges.
Military-connected students include those who are physically here on campus and those taking classes virtually from the comfort of home or forward-deployed positions throughout the world. Many are also members of the Student Veterans Organization at Syracuse University, the official student organization registered with Student Activities on campus, and the University’s official chapter of the Student Veterans of America.
Graduating senior John Nipper, a U.S. Navy veteran who was recently elected as President of the SVO, spoke during the ceremony about the unique experiences student veterans face in pursuing academic goals through higher education and how the college experience differs for military-connected students. “Our time at Syracuse University has not only provided us with the knowledge and skills to excel in our chosen fields, but it has also offered us the opportunity to forge lifelong friendships, engage in thought-provoking discourse, and broaden our horizons,” says Nipper, who will return to campus next semester to pursue a master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “We are not merely University graduates but ambassadors for the power of education and its transformative impact on our lives. Let us use our newfound knowledge to advocate for change, inspire future generations, and build bridges of understanding and compassion,” Nipper says.
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Dr. Kwuan Paruchabutr ’01, a U.S. Army veteran and an assistant professor at the Uniformed Services University. Dr. Paruchabutr is also the president-elect for the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health. “Life is about constant reinvention. I have had to continuously learn, unlearn and re-learn. It’s about the journey, not the destination,” says Paruchabutr, who graduated from Syracuse University’s School of Nursing in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. “You have all overcome challenges and shown incredible dedication, for that you should be proud. As you move forward in your careers and lives, remember the lessons you have learned and never forget the impact you can have on the world.”
During the ceremony, student veterans were awarded the red, white and blue honor cords to wear with their graduation regalia at the University’s Commencement Ceremony, or their individual school or college’s convocation celebrations. The cord is given in honor of their military service and acknowledgment of their academic achievement. Additionally, student veterans have the option to wear a stole which distinctly identifies those graduating students who have served in the military.
Among the student veterans graduating this year, Phil Benedict, who served in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy Reserve, earned a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum from the School of Education. Benedict works for Syracuse University Facilities Services as a building supervisor, and also teaches a women’s self-defense class and is the head coach for the Syracuse University boxing team.
After a brief reception following the ceremony, the K.G. Tan Auditorium doors opened back up to welcome guests to the Army and Air Force Commissioning Celebration. The University’s U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force ROTC detachments held individual commissioning ceremonies later in the day, where cadets took the Oath of Office and were pinned as Second Lieutenants in their respective branches.
Syracuse University’s Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, J. Michael Haynie, served as a part of the official party for the ceremony and during his opening remarks addressed the growing military-civilian divide that exists within the United States. “Each of you being commissioned today will join the profession of arms at a time in history when the majority of American citizens do not know you, do not understand the full weight of the burden that you will carry, or truly comprehend the price that some of you may be asked to pay,” says Haynie. “Those people who do not know you, those people who do not understand the price of service, are not in this room. They certainly are not among the leadership of this University.”
Later in the day the U.S. Army ROTC, the Stalwart Battalion, and the U.S. Air Force ROTC, Detachment 353, held separate ceremonies to formally commission the new Lieutenants. The graduating cadets took the Oath of Office and were pinned with their new rank as Second Lieutenants with family and friends on hand. Many of the new Lieutenants received their first salute during the ceremony, rendered by friends and family who either had served or currently are serving. The Stalwart Battalion commissioned twenty-three new officers for the U.S. Army, and Detachment 353 commissioned nine new officers for the U.S. Air Force.
The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs proudly celebrates the accomplishments of these graduating military-connected students and invites the campus community to view photos from the ceremonies and celebrations from throughout the day. Additionally, those interested in learning more about Syracuse University’s commitment to being the “Best Place for Veterans” are encouraged to visit Syracuse University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs.