Cadets from East Carolina University’s Army ROTC Pirate Battalion will host the ninth annual Patriot Run at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 1 on the west research campus.
The run through lots of mud and obstacles will benefit Homes for Our Troops and Eagle Rock Camp, which reconnects servicemen and women with their families and communities after deployments or long periods away.
“We want to be a part of our community and strive to do our best to support it,” said Cadet Eric Sengmany, one of the organizers of the 5k mud run. “The Patriot Run provides individuals with a fun and challenging event, but also gives them an awareness of veterans and veteran organizations in our community.”
The research campus is at 1157 VOA Site C Road west of Greenville. The first heat will begin at 9 a.m. The race is for individuals or teams. There will also be a 1-mile fun run. Preregistration is available at http://patriotrun.com or at the site the morning of the race. The first 200 registered runners will receive a T-shirt, and all racers will get a finishers coin.
“Putting together this race is a good representation of how important our veterans and service members are to us. It is an honor to be a part of a program that strives to recognize those who have served before us and that prepares us to be the best leaders for our soldiers,” Sengmany said.
Former Marine Phil Klay will be at East Carolina University March 16-17 to participate in the University-sponsored Veterans Writing Workshop, designed to coach and mentor veterans and military-connected writers to record their stories of service.
Klay joined the Marines because we were a nation at war, he says. He wrote short stories about his war, and how that war followed him home, so the American people could better understand the consequences of America’s reactions to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There were stories he had to tell — individual stories about men and women that weren’t being told on the nightly news.
Now he’s returning to eastern North Carolina to help other veterans tell their own stories.
Klay will lead a writing workshop March 16 and will be joined by fellow authors Ron Capps, Monica Haller and Dr. Fredrick Foote at Hendrix Theater that evening from 7-9 p.m. for readings and a question-and-answer session, which is open to the public and is an ECU Passport Event.
Author Ron Capps. (contributed photo)
“I think the craft of writing is the best way we have of dealing with the most vital, painful and beautiful aspects of life. Hopefully, I’ll have something useful to say to writers who are trying to figure out how to approach subjects that are important to them,” Klay said. “Certainly, I’ve found conversations with veteran writers to be hugely important in helping me to formulate my thoughts.”
Klay won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction for “Redeployment,” a collection of short stories about the war he witnessed in Iraq during a 2007 troop surge intended push back against a raging insurgency that threatened Iraq’s future.
“It’s such an odd space to be in, transferring being at war in Iraq and at peace the States, between one’s primary sense of oneself as a Marine and as a husband, as a soldier and a citizen,” Klay said. He hopes that his work, and the writing produced by the Veterans Writing Workshop, will extend a bridge to those who didn’t share the experiences of combat.
“I think I’ve continued to develop a respect for the depth and complexity of veteran’s experiences. I’ve also thought more about the role of American citizens more broadly, whether veteran or not, and the things that unify us as a country,” Klay said.
Jonathan Jeffries, a recent graduate of East Carolina University’s College of Nursing, was named a Distinguished Graduate at his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December.
The honor is given to the top 10 percent of the Air Force ROTC graduating class nationwide, which this year included 1,815 graduates from 144 detachments. The award is predicated on success and leadership in academics, ROTC and in the community.
Jonathan Jeffries, right, receives a sabre in recognition of being named a Distinguished Graduate during his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December. (Contributed photo)
“I think he’s the whole person concept as far as what we would need as a leader,” said Lt. Col. Roxane Engelbrecht, Jeffries’ commanding officer who nominated him for the award. “He is physically fit and he excels academically — those are the first two things. The third is leadership quality and his ability to lead groups of people, not only in the Air Force and Air Force ROTC, but his demonstrated leadership at the university is somewhat unparalleled by most cadets.”
Jeffries was the College of Nursing’s fall 2016 senior class president. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing in December with a 3.89 GPA. He helped to organize a relief effort to aid Greenville flood victims following Hurricane Matthew in the fall of 2016. He also spearheaded his class’s efforts to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society during the 2016 Walk MS fundraiser.
Engelbrecht has nominated five cadets for the award since she came to ECU in 2014. Of those, Jeffries is one of four to have been selected as a recipient.
“It was a huge shock and a huge honor,” Jeffries said of the award, which came in the form of a sabre Engelbrecht presented him at the ceremony. “I’m not one to care about being recognized, but when it does happen it’s definitely nice to see all the effort and all the hard work you’ve put in – throughout your time either with ROTC or at the College of Nursing – be recognized. It was a surreal moment. It was probably one of the best days of my life so far.”
Prior to attending ECU, Jeffries served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three and a half years, but separated from that branch after being injured in pre-deployment training.
Jeffries plans to make a career as an Air Force nurse. He will go to Arizona in February for the Air Force’s 10-week nursing training before being stationed at Eglin Air Force base in Florida.
After a week of rock climbing, rafting, fly fishing and more, George Kalinowski was most excited about being among fellow veterans who really listened.
Kalinowski, a Vietnam veteran and East Carolina alumnus, was one of 10 participants on a recent trip that allowed combat- wounded veterans to bond and realize new capabilities through adapted outdoor sports. From Aug. 9-14 at the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado, Kalinowski and veterans of other conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan were able to build confidence and camaraderie.
“The trip was outstanding. Everybody was opening up. I think they liked having the old guy there,” said Kalinowski, who suffered shrapnel wounds in Vietnam and received a Purple Heart. “No one takes the time to listen to veterans, at any age. With the guys, we opened up more when we realized we’d gone through similar things. They wanted to hear what I had to say. They were really supportive, and I wanted to support them, too.”
The East Carolina Alumni Association Military Alumni Chapter partnered with No Boundaries to offer a unique trip for veterans. (Contributed photo)
Kalinowski was selected for the trip after applying through the East Carolina Alumni Association Military Alumni Chapter. This year, the chapter partnered with No Boundaries, a nonprofit that offers this trip to veterans from across the country twice a year, in the summer and winter, at no cost to veterans.
“My favorite part was the fly fishing, but every activity was great,” he said. “A couple times, I doubted myself and thought some of this stuff was beyond what I could do at my age. But everything went really well.”
Kalinowski grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. His father was an Air Force officer. He came to ECU on the recommendation of one of his high school teachers. He joined a fraternity and studied accounting but was drafted into the Army before he could graduate. He worked in several fields throughout his career, including real estate and as the part-owner of a sign company.
“Life has been good to me. I’ve been fairly well off,” he said. “But being retired, I wasn’t doing much. This trip inspired me to get in shape. My family was worried it would be too much strain. I’ve been a couch potato, but now I’ve got a whole new attitude.”
On the last night of the trip, participants were invited to be guests of honor at a local rodeo. They were brought to the center of the ring as the announcer thanked them for their service.
“The crowd stood up and clapped. I’m not an emotional person, but that got to me,” Kalinowski said. “We were so unwelcome when we came home. I’m so glad the nation is supporting veterans better.”
Kalinowski “overwhelmingly” recommends the trip to other Pirate veterans. “No doubt about it, you won’t be sorry,” he said. “It’s great what these organizations are doing for us.”
The next No Boundaries trip will be March 7-12. Applications will be due Jan. 24. ECU alumni or students who are combat-wounded veterans are encouraged to apply.
The Military Alumni Chapter hosts various programs throughout the year and is open to any ECU alumni with current or past military service. To find more information, get involved or support the chapter, visit PirateAlumni.com/militaryalumni.
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.
Cords and Pins: ECU’s graduating student veterans received red, white and blue tassels and challenge coins during a recognition ceremony Nov. 28. (Photos by Chris Stansbury)
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.
Chancellor Staton with Keyvin Dixon
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.
Chancellor Staton with Taylohr Richardson
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.”
East Carolina University has started a chapter of SALUTE, the first national honor society for veterans.
SALUTE, an acronym for service, academics, leadership, unity, tribute and excellence, recognizes veterans, active duty service members, National Guard members and reservists who have been honorably discharged, or who are currently serving. Undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for membership.
ECU ROTC students recognized at a ceremony earlier this year are some of the students eligible for the new SALUTE honor society being organized on campus this fall. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
“The students who are inducted into membership in SALUTE represent every slice of American military and veterans in higher education,” according to SALUTE’s website.
Set up as a four-step system, SALUTE encourages student veterans to improve their GPAs in order to advance to the next tier level throughout their academic career. Tiers include Delta (3.00-3.24), Charlie (3.25-3.49), Bravo (3.50-3.74) and Alpha (3.75-4.0).
“Student veteran services decided to apply for membership to SALUTE because transitioning from military service can be a challenging time for our student veterans. We want to support our students by taking time to officially honor those who have succeeded academically at ECU,” said Nicole Jablonski, assistant director of ECU Student Veteran Services.
Although ECU’s chapter is purely an academic recognition group, Jablonski hopes to add a service component in the future.
Each new member will be presented with a certificate and a challenge coin at an awards ceremony. Approximately 50 veterans are expected to be inducted into the inaugural group in spring 2017.
SALUTE was founded at Colorado State University in 2009. The honors society includes both two-year and four-year higher education institutes.
East Carolina University has been named one of the top 100 schools in the nation for military spouses.
ECU is the only university in North Carolina to receive Victory Media’s Military Spouse Friendly School designation.
As such, ECU demonstrates “best practices in the education of military spouses and military families,” according to Victory Media, which measured universities on 10 criteria from academic and military family support to offering programs leading to portable career opportunities.
Earning the designation brings great pride, said Rondall Rice, chair of ECU’s Academic Military Affairs Committee, which completed the surveys and compiled information for the designations.
“Having served 29 years in the Air Force, I know the importance of military spouses and families, and the hardships they endure to allow their loved one to serve the nation. Being Military Spouse Friendly recognizes that ECU values their sacrifice and has programs and policies in place to help them achieve their academic goals,” Rice said.
This is the fifth military friendly-related designation this academic year, Rice said, which is a testament to ECU’s campus-wide efforts to make it a welcoming and beneficial place for military students, veterans and their families.
“This specific student population is focused and hard-working, but often face difficulties and unique situations due to their service,” Rice said. “We are proud to work with them all to help them earn their degrees.”
In the fall, the Military Times ranked ECU 28th in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2016 – the highest ranked in North Carolina. ECU also was named a Military Friendly School, which recognizes the top 20 percent of trade schools, colleges and universities that are doing the most to embrace service members, veterans and their families. The other two designations given to ECU are the Military Times’ Best for Vets: Business Schools and Victory Media’s Top 50 Military Friendly Schools for jobs in the pharmaceutical and health care industry.
ECU offers participation in the Veterans Administration Yellow Ribbon Program, which extends GI Bill benefits to cover out-of-state tuition. ECU also has one of only 79 VA-funded Veterans Support on Campus representatives across the nation and the only one in North Carolina.
Other support groups on campus include the student-led Pirate Veterans and the ECU Student Veteran Services office which offers Green Zone training for faculty and staff to increase understanding of military and veteran students and issues they may face in college. ECU also has programs to award academic credit for military training using American Council on Education recommendations. And ECU’s Military Advisory Committee helps raise scholarship money for ROTC and military students and coordinates veterans recognition and military appreciation events.
Victory Media’s Military Friendly Guide is the premier resource used by military personnel and their families when choosing an institution of higher learning. The publication is distributed to all base education centers worldwide and offered to every military member at retirement or transition from service to civilian life. More information about the new designation can be found at https://militaryfriendly.com/militaryspouseschools/.
Thursday, Dec. 10th, Dowdy Student Stores and their vendor, Perfect Promotions & More of Apex, NC presented three checks from the sales of t-shirts benefitting specific causes this fall.
Thursday morning, physicians and staff from the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center were presented a check for $2,124 to benefit the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Fund, and a check for $2,124 was presented to Ms. Katrina Combs, manager of the McConnell-Rabb Hope Lodge of Greenville. These funds were from sales of Pirate Cancer Awareness T-shirts sold during October at ECU Dowdy Student Stores and the Medical Bookstore at Brody School of Medicine.
Over $4,000 was raised in support of cancer organizations during the sale of Pirate Cancer Awareness shirts sold by Dowdy Student Stores during October.
The McConnell-Raab Hope Lodge of Greenville is part of the American Cancer Society’s program providing no-cost temporary housing to patients and their caregivers while undergoing cancer treatments at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center and Vidant Hospital.
The Pink Ribbon Fund assists local breast cancer patients at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center, a joint venture of the ECU Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Hospital.
Later that morning, a check for $4,788 was presented to the ECU Distinguished Military Society to benefit ROTC Scholarships at East Carolina University. The presentation was made at the Freedom Wall to Dr. Steve Duncan, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Military Programs and Dr. Glen Gilbert, Dean of the College of Health and Human Performance. These funds were generated from sales of ECU Military Appreciation t-shirts during the month of November at the Dowdy Stores as well as at the football stadium.
Dowdy Student Stores also presented $4,788 to the ECU Distinguished Military Society to benefit ROTC Scholarships at ECU.
Stephen McFadden, Vice President of Perfect Promotions and More, of Apex, NC was the vendor of the t-shirts and was instrumental in the venture. McFadden is an ECU Alumnus who enjoys giving back to the University through projects such as this.
More than 1000 of each of the shirt styles were sold, and according to Dowdy Student Stores Director Bryan Tuten, they plan on running both of these programs again next year.
Dowdy Student Stores is owned and operated by the University.
Deputy Command Psychologist Bruce Moyer, right, presents the Commander’s Award for Public Service to ECU student Justin Raines, left. (Contributed photo)
East Carolina University doctoral student Justin Raines received the Commander’s Award for Public Service, one of the top public service awards bestowed upon a civilian by the U.S. Department of the Army.
The award is presented to Raines for significant impact on operations of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne) through his research expertise in the Psychology Support Section from May 2013 through Dec. 2014. His work supported data management, statistical analysis and predictive model techniques to determine psychological factors that contribute to student success in the special forces qualification course for detachment commanders and the special forces combat diver qualification course.
According to the award narrative, his work “required extraordinary knowledge, adaptability and innovation in order to meet mission demands.” Raines was described as “dedicated to the mission and fully investing in supporting the development and training” of participating soldiers.
Raines is pursuing a Ph.D. in occupational health psychology at ECU.