ECU honors graduating veterans
East Carolina University held a ceremony and reception on Nov. 28 to recognize its graduating student veterans, who received red, white and blue tassels and gold challenge coins to commemorate the occasion.
First held last fall, the event is organized each semester by Student Veteran Services in the Division of Student Affairs. About 25 students and family members attended this fall’s ceremony.
ECU strives to be a military friendly university and is the only school in the UNC System with a veteran success counselor physically housed on campus, helping student veterans and their families navigate their educational careers.
At the recognition ceremony, Chancellor Cecil Staton spoke to the student veterans and their families, as well as faculty and staff in attendance in the Spilman Gallery.
“I commend each one of you for your service to our great country and further applaud your commitment to successfully completing your education,” he said. “Each of you has achieved so much to get to where you are today, and now we look forward to you becoming amazing ambassadors for East Carolina University.”
There are about 500 student veterans currently enrolled at ECU, and 66 are graduating this fall. One of them, Ashley Bonner, shared her personal story with those in attendance.
She explained how her three deployments impacted her physically and emotionally and that she struggled to return to a sense of normalcy. Ashley began working with therapy horses at the Rocking Horse Ranch in Greenville. She said one horse in particular, named Cisco, changed her life.
“I worked very closely with Cisco and taught him a lot, but he taught me even more,” Bonner said. “I learned to trust in myself, have confidence in myself and that I could survive and succeed in my life after taking off my uniform.
“My university, East Carolina University, also gave me opportunities to grow and succeed. The university studies degree with a focus on rehabilitation will open doors that I hope will let me help other veterans making a life transition.”