September 11 a catalyst for better vets programs at GU

September 8, 2011

Prior to September 11, 2001, Georgetown was virtually bereft of a military veteran’s presence. The campus was still brimming with anti-military sentiments, remnants from the Vietnam War. Today, a number of organizations and support groups for both soldiers on active duty and veterans exist on campus: Hoyas for Troops, Georgetown University Student Veterans Association, Georgetown Allies, and the Georgetown University Military Association. But that wasn’t always the case.

Dr. Barbara Mujica, a professor of Spanish at Georgetown University and the faculty adviser to GUSVA, has been a witness to the change in sentiment towards veterans on campus over the past ten years.

When her son, Mauro Mujica-Parodi III, attended University as an undergraduate (before 9/11), he and his roommates were met with hostility when they put up an American flag in the dorm room.

“There were students who made horrible comments and tried to tear it down,” Mujica said. “There was no consciousness of a veterans’ presence at Georgetown [before 9/11] happened.”

Mujica-Parodi was commissioned the day after he graduated from Georgetown and served with the Marine Corps in Iraq from 2004 to 2008.

Even after 9/11, Mujica said there were almost no traces of veteran related activity at Georgetown.

“I went on the Georgetown website and typed in ʻveteranʼ and nothing came up,” Mujica said. “The first thing I started to do was organize a webpage. Now Georgetown is a member of GUSVA [and] the organization is being run by veterans.”

Mujica dedicated 80 percent of her non-teaching time to veteran-related activities and worked closely with former GUSVA president Erik Brine. Founded in the spring of 2009, the Georgetown chapter comprises over 300 veterans and boasts a veterans office with a part-time coordinator on staff.

Mujica is confident that a full veteran’s center will eventually be established at Georgetown.

“The campus has really turned around [and] 9/11 was the catalyst,” said Mujica.

Donna Hernandez (SFS ʼ13), married to a veteran and active member of Georgetown Allies, a group which facilitates civilian-military dialogue on campus, was a freshman when her husband was deployed.

“Now even if [people] are against the war [they] will support our soldiers. Before, veterans were seen as 60-year-olds from Vietnam. Now they may be in your classroom,” Hernandez said.

With the tenth anniversary approaching, she plans to pay respects at Arlington cemetery. “Itʼs a personal subject for us because there are actual number lots we want to visit,” she said.

“Georgetown has changed a lot, especially in the last few years,” Vice President of GUSVA and U.S. Army veteran Dillon Behr said. “I donʼt know that there was a veteran presence before 9/11, but it has opened its doors up to veterans as a whole.”

The University’s progress in veterans’ support has prompted other schools, like American University and Florida Atlantic, to contact Georgetown for advice about setting up veteran support groups.

A veterans support group meets once a month and includes people from the Academic Resource Center, Student Health Center, Provost’s Office, the admissions office, the financial aid office, the registrar’s office, and the School of Continuing Studies.

However, Behr said there is still work to be done for veterans at Georgetown, where veterans’ aid is still less than at other schools.
“Itʼs not enough,” he said. “We need to increase the amount of yellow ribbon coming from Georgetown.”

On September 11, a prayer vigil will be held on Healy Lawn, followed by the second annual 185 For Heroes event on Saturday and a 5k run/ walk on Sunday.

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