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Student and faculty veterans at Queensborough Community College were honored last week with the dedication of the college’s Remembrance Grove and the promise that their service to the country would not be forgotten.
The idea for what would eventually become the landscaped terrace on the campus began with one simple thought.
“How about we show our appreciation at this school for our veterans?” Stan Mykhaylichenko recalled thinking one day.
A three-year U.S. Army vet who served in the infantry in Afghanistan, Mykhaylichenko came back home to Bayside and enrolled at QCC three years ago to study business administration.
“I’ve seen more stuff than most people my age. War is hell,” the 24-year-old said inside the college’s Kupferberg Holocaust Center.
Another kind of hell, he found, was the sense of isolation he felt among the college community. As president of the school’s Veterans Club, Mykhaylichenko said he discovered that other veterans felt the same way.
So one day he approached President Diane Call with the idea for a tree to honor veterans. She came back a few months later and told him not only would there be a memorial, but it would be much grander.
“Finally I understood that somebody cares. I’m not alone. This community really cares,” he said.
The college finished constructing the memorial last month — a pentagon-shaped terrace with five white oak trees to honor the five branches of the military.
Dane Burkett was able to parlay his experience as an aviation electrician in the U.S. Navy into 15 credits toward his electrical engineering degree at QCC.
He spoke about the difficulty of returning to a society drastically different from the one he left behind, and the feeling he got after being accepted at Queensborough.
“It was the best thing that happened to me since my discharge,” said Burkett, who plans to continue his studies at the City University of New York once he graduates in January.
Assistant professor Robert Kueper, himself a veteran and adviser to the QCC Veterans Club, said many students are reluctant to seek the assistance the military and school offer them.
“For some vets it’s hard just to step through that door and say hello,” he said of the school’s office of Student Veteran Support Services, which collaborates with seven QCC offices to guide veterans through the college process. “Some [veterans] don’t want to deal with the military.”
Several elected officials attended the ceremony.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) spoke about the need for college campuses to recognize the unique challenges facing veterans and read a quote from George Washington.
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation,” the senator recited. She added, “Our thoughts have not changed.”
Newly elected state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) noted the proximity of Election and Veterans days.
“If you see a soldier, if you see someone in uniform, if you see someone who you know served, thank them. Because without them, someone like me would not have the opportunity to serve in government,” he said.
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said it was apropos the ceremony was being held in a center dedicated to keeping memories alive.
“Remembering the lessons of history is the only way we’ll avoid repeating their mistakes,” he said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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