Slideshow: GCU’s Military Division Salutes Vets at VA Center
By Doug Carroll
GCU’s Military Division turned out in force Wednesday morning for a pre-Memorial Day visit to the VA Medical Center in central Phoenix, distributing coffee, doughnuts and American flags to veterans.
Memorial Day recognition of veterans has become a tradition at GCU, and Senior Vice President Bart Burkert said it’s a highlight for the division.
“To me, it’s a privilege to be over the Military Division, helping to enroll and graduate those who’ve protected our freedom,” Burkert said as about 50 of his team members, wearing red T-shirts with “We Salute You” on the front, assembled at the medical center.
“We’ll get more out of this than (the veterans) will,” Burkert said. “It’s a huge morale builder for us.”
Stopping at a clinic inside the center, some had an opportunity to chat with Leonora Bisbey, who served three years in the Navy and 19 in the Army National Guard — and is a 1998 graduate of GCU with a degree in human resources management. As if it had been planned, she was wearing purple.
“GCU offered a wonderful program with entry into civil service,” said Bisbey, who went on to work at the VA regional office in vocational rehabilitation, retiring in 2006. “I always recommended Grand Canyon (to veterans). I was a billboard for you guys.”
Bisbey said she had several reasons for choosing GCU.
“One, it was Christian-based,” she said. “Two, I’d talked to others who thought it was a good program. And it was accelerated so that I could get through quickly. Nowadays, you can do everything on the Internet, but I was in on the front end of that.”
Enrollment Counselor John Villamor, an Air Force veteran, came away from a conversation with Korean War veteran Arden Rowley, an 81-year-old former prisoner of war, with a renewed appreciation for service. As a member of the 2nd Infantry Division, Rowley spent time in five war camps.
“This is a pleasure and a privilege,” Villamor said. “This makes it real, what we’re doing (in the Military Division). This energizes you.”
Paula Pedene, a representative of the medical center, praised the efforts of Jose Moreno, GCU’s community outreach manager, in making the occasion happen. The GCU group also visited the nearby Arizona State Veteran Home, where it sang the four military hymns.
“This has been phenomenal,” Pedene said. “There has been a lot of one-on-one interaction, and we’re very thankful to GCU for its presence today.
“Veterans love it when they hear, ‘Thank you for your service.’ It warms their heart.”
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].