A temporary cemetery with about 300 white wooden crosses representing Arlington National Cemetery were set up in Gorton Quad on Nov. 9 for the Arlington West Event.
The event, held in honor of Veteran’s Day, featured speakers who paid tribute to those that have served in different wars.
Some crosses bore names of the deceased and ages of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This day is about honoring the living, those that have served our country,” Dean of Student Affairs DeniseWhisenhunt said in opening remarks. “This is not Memorial Day, it’s Veterans Day.”
Maurice Martin, City College’s Veterans for Peace president, said the event was organized to honor fallen soldiers and those that are still serving. Martin said City College has about 1,000 registered veterans and there are 22 of them in the Veterans for Peace club.
According to Martin, the name Arlington West was given by WWII veteran Ted Berlin and reflects the name of the United States national cemetery.
Among other veterans present, City College Military Education Program professor Leo Padilla, who served in the Navy for 35 years, gave a sobering account of his days in service.
“The greatest moments in my service to the country was not of war, but of the people I served with,” Padilla said. “Together we sought freedom. Today is a day of reflection and honor for those that have served so that we could all sleep soundly in safety.”
Humberto Hernandez, who recently served two tours in Iraq up until 2007, spoke during the event about his experiences of war. He teared up and his voice trembled as he shared the he could have died many times (and that he) shouldn’t be here…today.”
After returning from his second tour in Iraq, Hernandez said he spent some time dealing with the stress and traumas of war. It was his determination to succeed that pushed him to return to school and seek a psychology major.
“I was in an extremely dark place, I didn’t have any help,” Humberto said. “I was alone. I’ve never felt that alone ever. That’s why I want to be a social worker to help veterans so they don’t have to go through the same.”
Humberto added that statistically veterans of war return home with mental disorders, such as traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. He added that most of them turn to “pill popping,” alcohol and drugs to deal with the pain.
The young veteran also said he hopes to work for the Wounded Soldier Project and wants to be more vocal about the services available to veterans in education and health treatment.
Together, Veterans for Peace, Bring Education Activism Together (BEAT) and City College Peace StudiesProgram organized the event.