Embracing diversity on Veterans Day: Fostering inclusion at Quinnipiac

By Wayne Gersie, vice president for equity and inclusion November 10, 2023

Student veterans salute in front of the American flag during a ceremony

As we approach Veterans Day, it's crucial to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who have served in the armed forces. In the spirit of Quinnipiac’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, it's essential to recognize and appreciate the contributions of our veterans through a lens of inclusivity. This Veterans Day let's explore some history, the significance of the day, and avenues to better support and integrate veterans into our community. 

Initially named Armistice Day, Veterans Day was established to commemorate the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. Over time, the focus evolved to honor all military veterans who served in the United States Armed Forces. It is a day to express gratitude for the selflessness, bravery and dedication of those who have defended our nation. 

Veterans Day holds immense significance, as it provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the diverse individuals who have served in the military. It's a day to acknowledge the unique experiences and challenges faced by veterans and express gratitude for their service. But let’s consider this day is not only meant for reminiscing about the past; it's about creating an inclusive environment that welcomes veterans into our community with open arms. 

While Veterans Day traditionally emphasizes the military service of individuals, it's crucial to broaden the focus to include the varied backgrounds, experiences and identities within the veteran community. By adopting an inclusive perspective, we can ensure that all veterans feel seen, heard and appreciated for their individual contributions. 


What We Can Do to Support Veterans

Educate Ourselves: Take the time to learn about the experiences of veterans, their challenges, and triumphs. Understanding their unique perspectives is the first step toward fostering a more inclusive community. 

Create Inclusive Spaces: Foster an environment where veterans feel comfortable sharing their stories and connecting with others who may have similar experiences. Encourage dialogue and promote a sense of camaraderie among the veteran community. 

Offer Resources: Familiarize yourself with resources tailored to the specific needs of veterans. This may include counseling services, career guidance, or academic support to ensure a smooth transition from military service to university life and offer this support to a veteran in need 

Recognize Diversity within the Veteran Community: Acknowledge and celebrate the diversity within the veteran population. Veterans come from various backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and orientations. By recognizing this diversity, we can create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all. 


Celebrating Diversity Among Veterans: Stories of Wind Talkers, Tuskegee Airmen and Grace Hopper  

While the term "veteran" often brings to mind a uniform image, it's essential to recognize the rich tapestry of diversity within the veteran community. The stories of Wind Talkers, Tuskegee Airmen, and leaders like Sergeant Alex Rodriguez, Lieutenant Morgan Bennett and Admiral Grace Hopper exemplify the varied backgrounds and contributions of individuals who have served in the armed forces. 

The Navajo Code Talkers, also known as Wind Talkers, played a pivotal role during World War II. Members of the Navajo Nation, these brave individuals used their native language to create an unbreakable code, significantly contributing to the success of U.S. military communications. The Wind Talkers exemplify the diversity of cultures within the veteran community and the invaluable contributions that different backgrounds bring to the table. 

The Tuskegee Airmen shattered racial barriers as the first African American military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Despite facing discrimination, these pioneers demonstrated exceptional skill and courage, earning their place in history. Their legacy reminds us of the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of racial and ethnic backgrounds within the veteran community. 

LGBTQIA+ veterans such as Sergeant Alex Rodriguez and Lieutenant Morgan Bennett continue the theme of celebrating diversity amongst our veterans. Rodriguez, a decorated war hero, not only displayed unmatched bravery on the frontlines but also courageously navigated the complexities of being an openly gay service member, challenging stereotypes and paving the way for a more inclusive military. Lieutenant Bennett, a transgender who exemplifies resilience and dedication, having faced both the challenges of military service and the hurdles associated with gender identity.  

Grace Hopper, a computer scientist and U.S. Navy rear admiral, made significant contributions to the field of computing during her military service. Known as the "Queen of Code," Hopper's work laid the foundation for modern programming languages. Her story highlights the vital role women have played in the military, challenging gender norms and paving the way for future generations of female veterans. 

Recognizing the diversity within the veteran community at Quinnipiac is an opportunity to appreciate the unique perspectives and experiences that individuals bring to our campus. These collective groups alongside the highlighted individuals, embody the spirit of Veterans Day, standing as living testaments to the strength that arises from embracing diversity within our armed forces. Today, we salute them by acknowledging their profound impact on the legacy of service and sacrifice. 

By incorporating these stories into our Veterans Day celebrations, we honor the multifaceted nature of military service. Embracing diversity ensures that our community is not only inclusive but also aware of the rich history and contributions of veterans from all walks of life. 

As we commemorate Veterans Day, let us take inspiration from the Wind Talkers, Tuskegee Airmen, Sergeant Alex Rodriguez, Lieutenant Morgan Bennett and Admiral Grace Hopper.  

Their stories serve as a reminder that the veteran community is a mosaic of cultures, ethnicities, and genders, each contributing to the strength and resilience of our armed forces. By embracing and celebrating this diversity, Quinnipiac can continue to be a place where the stories of all veterans are valued and acknowledged.  

By recognizing the unique experiences of veterans, fostering understanding, and offering support, we can ensure that our community truly honors the sacrifices made by those who have served in the military. 

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