Deserving Vets Get Saint Leo’s Best

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On Thursday, Nov. 9, the University Campus was emblazoned with various forms of appreciation for Veterans that are a part of and around the Saint Leo Community.

The Department of Military Affairs and Services, under the direction of Colonel Pamela Martis, stationed several staging areas around the Student Community Center and the SCC Bowl. Representatives from several local organizations such as Career Source Pasco Hernando, Pasco Sheriff’s Office, and Pasco County Housing Authority were available to assist veterans and students alike with their services. Food was provided for the event by U.S.A.A and a game room was set up where veterans were notably seen playing Super Smash Brothers.

One of the veteran students in the game room, Senior and Computer Science major Norman Widamen, was excited to be a part of organizing the day’s festivities. Widamen encourages all student veterans to seek the veteran-friendly aspects of the school and to touch base as often as possible. As Widamen transitions out of the University, he said his primary goal is the promotion of Omega Delta Sigma – the coed fraternity nationally recognized for veterans

High-spirited and poised for the opportunity to share their experience was Dr. Diane Scotland-Coogan, assistant professor in the Master’s program of Social Work at Saint Leo. Scotland-Coogan has created a nonprofit organization (K9 Partners for Patriots), where dogs are provided to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D), military sexual trauma and mild traumatic brain injury.

The program is a 19-week module, during which time the participants will train their dogs under the guidance of the organization. Training of the pets by their potential owners serves a significant role in the healing process of veterans suffering from the aforementioned disorders.

“What we’re finding is, and I’m testing them in the beginning for trauma symptoms, and at the end when they finish, they are significantly improved in all trauma symptoms,” said Dr. Scotland-Coogan.

Periodically throughout the tenure of the event, Colonel Martis was seen engaging students and veterans alike, fostering an even broader sense of Community. Col. Martis lauded the event as a success and, in addition to the numerous vendors on-site, students from Marion Academy in Ocala also came down to put on a drill display.

“The event provided a way to say thank you to all veterans, whether faculty, staff or student and to bring them even more in touch with the community around them,” continued Martis.

Martis relayed her disappointment in the scheduled flag football exhibition match (slated for the night before between student veterans and fraternal organizations), as it did not happen. Martis said the Greek organizations were “no shows,” nevertheless the student veterans will be waiting for the chance to meet head to head on the field.

Additionally, other members of staff assisted in making the day a success. Director of Multicultural Services Paige Ramsey-Hamacher was seen with several persons making rain sticks and dream catchers. Associate vice president of Facilities Management, Jose Caban, instructed participants in the production of several beautiful pieces. Caban, who has been a part of the Saint Leo community for some time, stated that he had been painting for the past four years, during which 13 paintings were showcased in the Fine Arts building and 30 pieces in other locations around campus.

Though he is not a veteran, Caban stated, “I just want to help out in any way I can!”

Caban added that last year they produced 50 pieces with the canvases brought to the event, and this year the 70 canvases he had brought were dwindling quickly within the four hours he had spent on-site. Surprisingly, as Sophomore and Biology: Biomedical Science student Nicholas Fox finished his canvas, President Dr. Lennox walked up and inspected his painting giving praise with one word: “Outstanding!”

The unexpected byproduct of the day’s efforts materialized with students like Fox, who said that he “found the art therapy as a great way to relax during the high tension at this time of the semester.”

“It was a fantastic experience meeting student veterans, as well as other veterans connected to Saint Leo as it gives me the feeling that I am a part of a large and diverse community,” Fox continued.

Dr. Lennox continued to the other stations with an effervescent smile as he too is a veteran. When asked his opinion on how the day had materialized, Lennox stated: “I think it was a great opportunity to say thank you to the folks that served.”

Indeed, the energy and effort that went into the planning of the day’s event reaped rewards of an intangible measure from both volunteers and participants.

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