Veterans Receive Annual Visit From GCU for Memorial Day
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
More than 60 GCU Military Division employees wrapped up Memorial Day weekend Tuesday by brightening the days of residents of Arizona State Veteran Home.
The care facility, located at the state Veterans Administration Hospital complex in central Phoenix, is home to disabled veterans – including seniors with no family in Arizona to visit with or help them through their daily physical struggles.
Tuesday’s event marked the third year that GCU’s Military Division led a Memorial Day event to give back to veterans. Staff who organized the effort said the veterans home near Indian School Road and Third Street would be the ideal place for GCU staff to have time to visit and personally interact one-on-one with veterans through crafts, video games, walks in the park and other activities.
Bill Krause, a retired Air Force master sergeant who served as a pilot during the Korean and Vietnam wars, said Tuesday’s activities were a pleasant departure from the quiet reverence of the memorial services from the weekend.
Krause talked about the three years he has lived at the veterans home, far from his only blood relatives. He said Memorial Day was a day to remember the servicemen who died overseas, but also the veterans he knew who passed away while living at the home in Phoenix.
“I cry. I do,” said Krause, 78. “I think about all the friends I’ve lost.”
Like many veterans at the home, Krause said he was impacted by the trauma of combat. He is still receiving physical therapy for the effects of injuries he suffered while serving as a pilot.
“I had real problems when I came back from the war,” he said. “I would scream and thrash all the time.”
More than 5,000 service members are enrolled in classes at GCU, according to the University’s Military Division, including those who take advantage of military education benefits to earn their degrees. Some active military take online coursework from as far away as deployment locations in the South Pacific, Middle East and bases around the U.S.
Bart Burkert, senior vice president for the Military Division, said Tuesday’s event “puts things in perspective” for employees who spend their days online and on the phone communicating with veterans who look to GCU to earn their degrees.
GCU enrollment counselors Roz Tejeda and Shawn Harper are credited with innovating the Memorial Day event at Arizona State Veteran Home. Staff visited the larger VA Hospital last year as part of the event, but later decided to focus on residents at the state veterans home.
“Here, we get a chance to sit and talk with them individually,” Tejeda said. “Even though I haven’t served, this is a way for me to give back.”
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.