Honor, Respect Guide GCU’s Memorial Day Activities in Veterans Community
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
Memorial Day is often overlooked by Americans as little more than a long weekend and extra day off.
At GCU, it’s an opportunity to serve veterans in the community. It’s a time to reflect on how the University serves the veterans and active-duty military earning their degrees online from as far away as bases in Guam and Afghanistan.
With more than 5,000 service members enrolled in classes at GCU, the 169 staffers in the University’s military enrollment division must work efficiently. The University is known as one of the most military-friendly in the U.S., according to some reports.
On Friday, military enrollment staff at GCU’s Peoria Avenue office host members of Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard for a flag ceremony to commemorate the holiday. And on Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day, GCU staff head to Arizona State Veteran Home in Phoenix to pay tribute to veterans.
Anne Doughty, an Air Force veteran and GCU military enrollment counselor, visited the veterans home with GCU last year. She said being able to reach out to veterans can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Some of the veterans at the home, who range in age from seniors to younger vets of recent wars, have no family in Arizona or suffer from serious health conditions – which can make even the toughest servicemen feel forgotten.
“Many of the people I talked to and walked around with, they had tears in their eyes,” said Doughty, whose son, Kyle Graves, 23, has served in Iraq with the Army.
“They were so thankful that people remembered them and remembered their service to this country,” she said about last year’s event hosted by GCU at the home.
Doughty, 51, said she was overcome emotionally watching her son deploy to Iraq nearly 20 years after she served in the same region as part of the first Persian Gulf War in the Middle East.
The Vermont native, like many veterans in GCU’s military division, helps active and retired military personnel navigate the enrollment process. Doughty said she wishes GCU’s online programs had been available to her when she served in the Air Force, considering the tuition incentives for veterans.
Bart Burkert, senior vice president for GCU’s military division, said his division’s mission is to provide outstanding customer service to military personnel. It helps, he said, having dozens of former military service people on staff at GCU.
So, what are veterans earning their degrees in?
“It’s all over the board,” Burkert said. “We have teachers, we have people studying to be nurses, we have people in business classes. It’s a wide array of degrees.”
Burkert said his group prides itself on providing up-front honest assessments for veterans and active military personnel who are trying to take care of their degrees. He said a little help over the phone, and having advisers to lean on for information, goes a long way.
“We know things will take care of themselves if we keep that in mind and keep helping these (veterans) get better at what they do,” Burkert said.
Burkert and other GCU staff will be among those at the Arizona State Veteran Home on Tuesday at the facility at 4141 North S. Herrera Way, near Indian School Road and Third Street.
The event begins at 9:45 a.m. as GCU volunteers join residents for games, activities and military hymn sing-alongs.
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.