More than 350 UCLA community members — veterans, ROTC cadets, faculty, staff, alumni and friends — gathered in Wilson Plaza Nov. 11 for UCLA’s eighth annual Veterans Day ceremony to honor current military service members and veterans.
Thanking them for their service, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block talked about UCLA’s innovative programs that care for the physical and mental health needs of veterans and military service members and about the university’s 70-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles campus. There are new opportunities for further collaboration, he pointed out, as leaders develop a master plan to transform that campus into a 21st century space for veterans.
Among several other speakers at the ceremony was retired U.S. Navy Captain Captain George Thompson, a UCLA alumnus and retired ROTC instructor, who spoke of the determination, fortitude, knowledge and dedication to service that characterize veterans. U.S. Navy Captain Christian Dunbar, an M.B.A. student at UCLA Anderson School of Management who has been selected a John Wooden Global Leadership Fellow and Pat Tillman Scholar this year, said he is inspired daily by the moral courage of veterans and military personnel who live a life of service to others. He called on others to be inspired as well.
Dunbar encouraged student veterans to use the leadership skills and courage they gained from military service to work for positive change through social action.
Later, attendees visited a resource fair, staffed by representatives from Congressman Ted Lieu’s office, student veteran organizations, The Mission Continues, TELACU, and other nonprofit and veterans-related organizations. Today’s program was organized by Naval ROTC at UCLA.
For more information on UCLA research, programs, and services supporting veterans, please go to www.veterans.ucla.edu.
ROTC members carried the flags for the ceremony.
The crowd of several hundred greeted each other before the ceremony began.
Saluting the flag.
Luis Cárdenas Casillas, MM ’16, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Colonel Jonathan W. Hitesman, USMC Professor and Chair, Naval Science, opened the ceremony with kind words and a prayer.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said he was thankful for the 70 years the university has partnered with the West Los Angeles VA, and he is excited for the evolution of that relationship, which calls for an expansion and deepening of the partnership. “We need to help,” he added.
Distinguished speaker Captain George Thompson ’53, USN (Ret.) then took the stage.
The crowd listened intently.
Thompson recounted how amazing it was to think that he graduated from UCLA 63 years ago, and 33 years ago he retired. He noted that today’s military service culture is different — born on the backs of all-volunteer forces. “You are increasingly unique in this,” he said. “We are gathered here today to salute you.”
Captain Christian Dunbar, UCLA EMBA ’16, USN, said he has been humbled by UCLA’s embrace. “Those values among fellow students, staff and faculty — it’s just an amazing experience,” he said. “Listen to the stories of those around you. Ask them to tell you about their lives and experiences.”
Dunbar encouraged student veterans to be inspirational. “Be in service to others in your daily life,” he said. “It is very likely you can help or save another’s life.”