By Matthew Saracho
This years’ Veterans Resource Center at ELAC (VELAC) celebrated and honored America’s men and women in uniform. In attendance were approximately 100 guests, who consisted of students, active and retired veterans, and community leaders. Marvin Martinez, President of ELAC was also present to honor Veterans.
Oscar Estrada, VELAC member, master of ceremonies, brought forth political leaders and campus instructors to the stage.
Each one was allowed a few minutes to thank our veterans for their service and sacrifice for all Americans. “On the battlefield the military pledges to leave no service member behind,” Congresswoman Judy Chu said. “We must promise that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.”
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Representative of the 40th Congressional District, also said thanks for the work of America’s armed forces. She said that we as a nation have a moral responsibility to provide veterans and their families the same dedication that service men and women have to keep the nation safe. Roybal-Allard is the wife to a Marine officer who served in Vietnam and a stepmother to a soldier who fought in Iraq.
Dr. Rin Kahla from the Department of Sociology also spoke. The love for the classes she teaches goes even deeper for students who served their country. “I have a lot of students here and they’ve all taken classes with me, and I grew to love them and tailor to their needs, what they need to succeed,” Kahla said. She went on to say that she not only teaches, but she mentors.
She ended her speech with a poem called “The Dash,” which reminds people, both soldiers and civilians alike, that the time spent here on earth between birth and death is valuable and precious.
Stephanie Stone, a keynote speaker also stood up to show her appreciation for the veterans. She currently serves as Chief Deputy Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. As a former Navy foreman, she spoke about the people in her life that inspired her to go abroad and serve her country.
“My parents taught me the most important things,” said Stone. “They’re the ones that taught me and created my core values. They are the same core values that I live by and they have lived by throughout their lives: Honor, courage and commitment.”
Mr. Estrada honored veterans, both past and present, held a moment of silence. President Marvin Martinez stepped out into the crowd and answered the people’s questions. When he was asked what main element could be improved in VELAC Resource Center Martinez said that it is very important for America’s veterans to know that there is a program for them.
“If there’s anything that needs to be improved,” Martinez said, “it is how we do outreach, because a lot of veterans just don’t know that the program exists. They don’t know what the program can do for them.” He went on to say that this program would be moving from its old location to the new “Student Success” building.
When Mr. Estrada was asked how the Resource Center has helped him he replied, “For myself, I needed a little bit of legal assistance. So I walked into the Center and they were able to point me in the right direction by offering me resources which helped me out in that way.”
Mr. Estrada also spoke to the remaining guests individually. He explained to one interviewer that there is access to the program by Internet. Information related to program is sent by email and text alerts. “When anyone enrolls at ELAC,” said Mr. Estrada, “the big tab on the front webpage of the ELAC’s website says Veterans. Once they click on there, they will have access to resources and begin receiving outreach emails..” When a veteran is informed about VELAC Resource Center, he is immediately welcomed in. He is embraced by the students and faculty around him who want to provide the help he needs. Veterans booklets and fact sheets were distributed, were provided by the VELAC Resource Center for all guests.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard was misquoted. The original quote has been edited.