The Seminole Student Veterans Association’s held their second meeting of the term on Thursday, 28 August, with pizza and root beer floats for their members as the club prepared to honor three members of the Tampa Bay community for their service to veterans.
The club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 12:30 P.M. in the Veterans Services office in PB 601. After the meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, club President Peter Parapon, a public policy student at St. Petersburg College, introduced new members to the club’s activities which in have included 5 kilometer runs, movie nights and a trip to the skating rink. “I want to stress that this club is not just for veterans, but veterans and their supporters.” said Parapon. Activities are written on the whiteboard in Veterans Services, students can drop in any time and find out what the club has planned. Parapon introduced the club’s other officers, Vice President Hunter Chatters, and Public Affairs Officer Anthony Woods along with the Veterans Services Student Support Advisor Allison Shenofsky. After introductions were made, the first guest speaker was brought forward.
SPC student Gian DiBella was honored for founding Operation Home Shores, an organization funded solely by DiBella that provides fishing, hunting, and camping retreats for veterans and their families as a means of dealing with stress and easing their return to civilian life. Operation Home Shores has worked with other veterans organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project to bring recreational therapy to veterans in need. Lucas Overby, the Libertarian Party candidate for the House seat in Congressional District 13 was the next guest speaker.
Overby was previously a candidate in the special election for District 13, and took part in a debate on Seminole campus in February of this year. In his speech before the club Overby said “every time we do a cut (from the military budget), we take it from you guys and never from literally anything else. If we have to cut the funding we shuffle it out of Veterans Affairs, we shuffle it out of current pay, we shuffle it out of benefits, literally anywhere that we can from people and put into major projects.” The candidate said that he would be pushing for contract restructuring as a means of ensuring that soldiers get the equipment they need, and of honoring the contracts the government has made with veterans by switching from open contracting to blind contracting. This change would provide only the product and price in bids for contracts, preventing legislators from playing favorites when funding military projects. Overby also discussed his work at a commercial diving company that works with veterans, and his struggle to get veterans and active duty military who are transitioning their medical and education benefits. See our video of Lucas Overby’s remarks to the Seminole campus Student Veterans Association here.
Seminole campus Provost Dr. James Olliver came to the front of the room to thank the members of the Student Veterans Association for their service to their country, and for their work as a campus organization. He was followed by Fred Liggett, a Transitional Patient Advocate at the Veterans Administration. Mr. Liggett urged students to thank a Vietnam veteran, as that generation of veterans fought hard to make sure this generation of veterans had it better than they did.
He stressed that veterans should apply for their benefits now, “you might not think you need them in your 20s, but things are different in your 30s.” He challenged those present to pay it forward and fight to make sure the next generation of veterans get the help that they need. Mr. Liggett closed by letting student veterans know that he would be available after the meeting to help them get signed up for their benefits.
After the guest speakers, the club was introduced to their new advisor, Mike Poliquin. Professor Poliquin served with the United States Marine Corps, is a Vietnam veteran, and teaches in the hospitality program on Seminole campus. “This crew is going to be active, we’re going to share things with our vets.” said Poliquin. At the conclusion of the meeting President Parapon handed awards to Gian DiBella, Lucas Overby, and Fred Liggett in recognition of their service to veterans.