The University of North Carolina at Pembroke celebrated its student veterans at the first Veterans Appreciation Banquet on November 11.
Phil Oxendine, a Vietnam vet with 2nd Lt. Adam Bryant, who was recently commissioned after graduation from UNCP’s ROTC program
With students, faculty and staff who served in four branches of the military and veterans on hand, there were veterans of wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan.
Two other firsts were unveiled during the Veterans Day Celebration. The UNCP Chapter of Student Veterans of America was launched, and the first Distinguished Student Veteran Alumni Award was given out.
It was a diverse group of veterans. More than 200 UNCP students are veterans and were invited to the banquet.
Phil Oxendine of Pembroke said he spent seven months on the ground in Vietnam before being wounded at Chu Lai in 1971.
Clint Haywood, a Marine and Navy veteran, served in Afghanistan before returning home to Pembroke to major in American Indian Studies.
Spec. Renae Eades of Wilmington, N.C., comes from a long line of Marines, but is in the Army National Guard studying at UNCP under the College First Option.
National Guard – Michael Smith, Air Force, and Renae Eades, Army, attended the banquet
Air Force National Guard member Michael Smith of Charlotte, N.C., is up for promotion to Senior Airman. After serving in Saudi Arabia, he started college in January and plans to major in business.
Second Lieutenant Adam Bryant of Pembroke recently completed four years in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at UNCP and is preparing for officer training at Ft. Sill, Okla.
Aubrey Swett, director of UNCP’s Center for Leadership and Service and a 21-year U.S. Marine, was awarded the inaugural Pembroke Pointe Distinguished Student Veteran Alumni Award.
“Tonight, we remember those who believed that our nation’s freedom was worth fighting for,” Swett said. “Our freedom has been preserved for so many years by brave men and women willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”
Aubrey Swett (left), a Marine vet and UNCP administrator was given the first Distinguished Student Veteran Alumni Award. Pictured is Clint Haywood, a veteran of the Navy and Marines.
Chancellor Allen C. Meadors, an Air Force veteran, welcomed the gathering.
“Thank you for the time you have given and the sacrifices you have made,” Chancellor Meadors said. “I am proud of the veterans who we serve at this University.”
Rebecca Howell, a former Marine, invited her fellow vets to join the Student Veterans Association. She is the first president.
“Our mission is ‘closing the gap’ on the transition from military to civilian life,” Howell said. “We plan to have monthly discussions about the concerns of veterans.”
Dr. Weston Cook, a history professor and 22-year veteran of military service, will serve as faculty advisor to the group. He also presented a check to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program.
Chris Oxendine, a Navy veteran and director of the Robeson County Veterans Association, addressed the banquet and gave an overview of the new G.I. Bill, which will offer stipends along with tuition, fees and book costs.