Rep. Peter Buckley and retired Col. David Dotterrer inspired, thanked and called on veterans and students to create the future they wish to have during the Veterans Day Reception on Thursday, Nov. 10, in the Rogue River Room of the Stevenson Union at Southern Oregon University.
“There are three kinds of people in the world, those who make the future, those who watch the future happen, and those who wonder what happened,” said Buckley to his audience, encouraging them to strive to be among those in the first group. “We need every one of you to build our communities again, to build our country again.”
The reception, put together by the Veterans Resource Office, Commuter Resource Center and Student Veterans Association, is a bi-annual tradition on the Southern Oregon University Campus that honors all those who have served at home and abroad, said Kirby Rider, an event organizer and founder of SOU’s chapter of the SVA.
The attendees were a diverse mix of men and women from multiple generations, some in civilian attire and the others in military uniforms, but the attendees had this in common: respect for those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
“In addition to honoring veterans, the event is meant to bring about awareness of real issues going on in the world in relation to military matters,” said Sgt. Shon Hill.
Hill, 37, a senior at SOU who is double majoring in chemistry and mathematics, served in Rwanda and Bosnia in 1994 and 1996 respectively, and Iraq in 2004, where he permanently lost hearing in his left ear after his armored Humvee ran over a roadside bomb.
Despite his partial loss of hearing, Hill said the military gave him many things, the most important of which, he said, is a strong work ethic.
His comments were echoed in Dotterrer’s address.
“The skill set you really have is, again, the fact that you are a veteran and that, in fact, you learned what it was like to work more than an honest day’s work,” said Dotterrer. “You know a lot about that.”
Dotterrer’s accomplishments reflect his rhetoric. In a career that spans more than a quarter century, he served as company commander with the 2nd Marine Division, has two master’s degrees and nearly won a seat in the Oregon Senate in 2010.
Dotterrer began his long military career as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet in college and specifically thanked and acknowledged the ROTC cadets in attendance. “It’s a great program … Thank you very much for your service,” he said.
Devon Walker is another ROTC cadet. An MS2, or sophomore, studying sociology at SOU, said she was impressed by “the colonel’s list of accomplishments” and his son’s service. Dotterrer’s son, Charles, recently came home after serving back-to-back tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Walker was equally impressed with Buckley’s address, she said, especially his call to create your own history.
Buckley went on to quote playwright Anton Chekhov. “Anyone can face a crisis; it’s the day-to-day living that brings you down,” he said. “It’s another reason I’m so appreciative of SOU in their efforts to help veterans make that transition back into this day-to-day life that can wear you down if you let it.”
Rider, a senior majoring in business management, knows how hard this transition can be, because he himself has made it. After being deployed to Iraq in 2007, the former army specialist founded the SVA to assist others as they make the leap from military to civilian life.
“The main objective of the SVA is helping fellow veterans,” he said. “We have three student employees who are knowledgeable on benefits and programs for vets to make an easy transition.”
Rider knows he is not alone in this effort, though.
“All our speakers at the Veterans Reception showed their support for our student veterans and showed that they are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the success of our students,” he wrote in an email after the reception.
The keynote speakers not only inspired student veterans and ROTC cadets, but also civilian students such as Kristen Michaelis, a pre-nursing student and an executive intern for the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University. She said the speakers gave “a really good call to arms for us, veterans and citizens, to band together and make the world a better place.”