The Evergreen State College honored student veterans at the 11th annual Veterans Challenge Coining Ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 18.
The ceremony took place on the third floor mezzanine of the library building where Randy Kelley, Director of the college’s Veterans Resource Center, delivered opening remarks and handed out special coins.
“You bring a wealth of experiences,” said Kelley. “Veterans are an important part of the Evergreen community because of their problem-solving skills and ability to think across disciplines to find creative solutions.”
Evergreen President George Bridges also spoke, telling veterans they are valuable members of the student body. “Just as you learn from your colleagues in the military, together working collaboratively to solve problems, we do the same here,” said Bridges.
Bridges said when he taught, veterans were some of his most engaged students.
Republican Representative Chris Gildon of District 25, which includes Puyallup, Fife, South Hill, Summit-Waller, Midland and Parkland, was the guest speaker.
He told veterans his personal story of rising from humble beginnings as the great-grandson of a disabled west Texas blacksmith and janitor to become the first in his family to earn a college degree while working in the Texas oil fields after his service in the U.S. Army.
“I came up with the crazy idea to join the military and use the G-I Bill.”
Gildon told the veterans that their investment in education was critical and that his college degree changed everything for him. “That was the achievement that has propelled me to where I represent over 150,000 Washingtonians.”
Leah Beebe, who served in the U.S. Navy and is now enrolled at Evergreen working towards a career in conservation biology with the U.S. Forest Service, received a coin.
About the coin, she said, “I think it’s a good thing to give recognition to veterans that get out and then decide to get a college education—for having the courage to want to have a college degree.”
Beebe works as an education peer counselor in the Veterans Resource Center. “When I found out that there was a center here where you can actually hang out with other veterans and feel like you belong, that helped a lot. I guess you could say it’s like another family.”
Fifteen veterans received coins at the event, etched with images representing different branches of the military. The college began honoring veterans with the ceremony in 2008 to welcome veterans to campus.
All five branches of the military were represented: The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and The Coast Guard. More than 400 veterans are enrolled at the college.