UCSD honors U.S. vets in ceremony

The Veterans Association at UCSD honored U.S. veterans Friday with a ceremony that included a Medal of Honor recipient, the highest ranking female in the U.S. Marine Corps, and a former staff director for Gov. Gray Davis.

Chris Padfield
Guardian

This year’s Second Annual Recognition Ceremony was dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to the servicemen and women who were called to active duty in response to the attacks.

Chancellor Robert C. Dynes issued a notice Nov. 8 to all UCSD staff and students encouraging supervisors to allow employees time off so they could attend the event as long as it would not interfere with the function of the university.

The association presented Vince Hall, former staff director for the governor, with its Appreciation Award for Hall’s work on making Veterans Day an officially recognized holiday at the University of California.

Chris Padfield
Guardian

Until January 2000, the University of California did not recognize the state holiday because the UC Board of Regents is viewed by the state as a separate entity, and therefore is not subject to laws governing state agencies.

Introducing Hall, Veterans Association Chair Nick Aguilar said Hall was instrumental in forming the initiative from the governor’s office urging the regents to observe the holiday.

Hall said he was grateful for the award and for the sacrifices that the more than 25 million living U.S. veterans have made in the line of duty.

“”As long as there is evil in this world coupled with violence, there must be people who are willing to stand up with equal determination, armed with the principles of truth, freedom, justice and democracy,”” Hall said. “”That is the challenge we face in Afghanistan today, and the challenge that generations of Americans have faced since the birth of our country.””

Col. Angela Salinas, who is the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. Marine Corps, attended the event and addressed the audience, much of which was comprised of U.S. veterans.

The highly decorated Salinas, commanding officer of the largest marine recruitment district in the United States, talked about the importance of setting aside a day to contemplate the risks U.S. veterans have taken in conflicts for the United States.

“”Veterans Day is unique and special for Americans,”” she said. “”It is a time for us to set aside our routine activities to pause and appreciate those men and women who served our nation in uniform.””

Salinas concluded her speech by asking all of the veterans in the audience to stand up. She then stepped out from behind the lectern and presented them with a stern military salute.

Also present at the ceremony was Medal of Honor recipient John Baca, a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Baca spoke about his experiences in Vietnam and recounted the night he jumped on a grenade, saving his company from heavy casualties. He survived the blast because he threw his helmet over the grenade before jumping on top of it. It was for this selfless act that Baca was awarded the nation’s top military decoration.

Baca said his feelings about being a U.S. veteran are bittersweet — that while he is proud to have served his country in battle, he wishes that Americans would resolve themselves to avoid more conflicts.

“”Wars start, I guess, because we don’t know how to love our enemies,”” Baca said. “”We’re all told to love our enemies, and even if that’s not possible, maybe we can at least act like we do.””

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