Campus veterans reflect on their service

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Campus veterans reflect on their service

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

CW / Hannah Saad

Kinsley Centers | @kinsleycenters, Staff Reporter

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Veterans Day is an annual holiday honoring veterans and the sacrifices they have made for the United States, providing an opportunity for civilians to show appreciation to those who have served.

Joining the armed forces was a decision Evan Prosise made when he felt he was not heading in the right direction in life. Prosise, a senior majoring in business, decided he wanted to continue his family legacy of serving his country.

He said he joined the military because he knew it would benefit his life in a positive way.

“I didn’t feel like I was really getting anywhere, and so I spoke with my parents a little bit about it, and I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. Do you guys have any advice for me?” Prosise said. “Well, they felt a lot of pride when they joined the military. They felt like it gave them a lot of purpose.”

Prosise served active duty in the Air Force for two years. He came to the University in pursuit of becoming an officer and is currently a reservist with plans to go back to serve. 

“I was very fortunate,” Prosise said. “I loved my time in the military, so much so that I want to go back.” 

Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11 each year. For most, the federal holiday emphasizes expressing appreciation to those who have served our country. For some, it is a day where they reflect on their service, connect with fellow veterans and celebrate the service people who came before them.

Prosise is now a member of ROTC and serves as the vice president of the University of Alabama Campus Veterans Association (CVA).

CVA is an organization that strives to bring veterans together on campus, also including military dependents and spouses, by offering guidance and resources. Through the organization, people of similar backgrounds can come together and connect. The goal of CVA is to provide an easy transition to help guide veterans to graduate college, whether that may be assisting with financial needs or giving support.

This Veterans Day, people need to keep in mind that those who serve go through a lot of hardships while deployed and at home, Prosise said. This includes, for instance, being away from friends and family.

“Support for the military, in general, is a big thing,” Prosise said. “Sometimes we feel like we don’t have an avenue to go to because we do basically move from location to location frequently and we lose contact with a lot of friends and we don’t get to see family as much, and so support in any way, shape or form for the military goes such a long way.”

Another veteran who continued a family legacy of serving in the military is Zack McGhee, a senior majoring in international studies who served for six years. McGhee wanted to serve as his father and grandfather did.

After McGhee heard their stories growing up, he knew he wanted to become a soldier. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 occurred later, and McGhee became sure he wanted to serve. 

“That really solidified my view that, ‘Hey, I want to do something for my nation. I want to follow my father’s footsteps,’” McGhee said. “My grandfather was in the military. He was in it during World War II, so I had this strong sense of tradition that I want to keep going. So I enlisted.”

McGhee believes Veterans Day is a time for Americans to put aside time to reflect on what the men and women have sacrificed by serving our country. He suggests that others take time to reflect on Veterans Day and consider how different America would be without those who have served.

Making the transition from active duty to civilian life can be intense, but having to transition to college life after serving can cause even more stress. McGhee, the president of Eta Omega Pi, said his fraternity has helped with these things.

The co-ed fraternity helps make the transition of active duty or veteran status into academic life easier. Those who serve in active duty, ROTC cadets and independents get the sense of togetherness while being able to experience the traditional greek lifestyle. 

“It’s all about fostering that sense of community and togetherness that [for] a lot of us, we had when we were in the service that commemoratory,” McGhee said. “We now have a space where we can come together and continue to experience that.”

Unlike McGhee and Prosise, Slade Salmon, a junior majoring in operations management, became the first in his family to join the military. He joined just two weeks after high school. He served for four years and is now the president of CVA.

Salmon said he grew interested as a child with inspiration from the movie “Top Gun.” He said as he got older, he found himself not having the motivation to come to college, so he joined the Marine Corps.

“That’s where I really grew up and, you know, became a leader and learned leadership traits and leadership qualities and was able to lead other Marines,” Salmon said.

On Veterans Day, Salmon is always sure to connect with his fellow veterans that he served with. He said they were close as they used to live together; however, over the years they have grown apart, but still try to keep in touch.

 “If there is a veteran in your family, or if you know a veteran or have heard of a veteran, just reach out to them,” Salmon said. “Ask them how their day is and how they’re doing.”