SAN MARCOS — Students, staff and invited guests celebrated the opening of the campus Cal State San Marcos Veteran Center on Nov. 13. The center is only the second to be opened at a Cal State campus and is significantly larger than the first one opened at San Diego State.
University President Karen Haynes and Rear Admiral Len Herring, commander of the Navy’s Southwest region, were keynote speakers and ribbon-cutters at the ceremony, which attracted a large crowd to the Tukwut courtyard on campus.
“The Veterans Center will be a place where veterans will feel welcome and empowered,” Haynes said. “We chose to locate the Veterans Center here in Cougar Central because it will be a one-stop shop for veterans’ services and it will be an inclusive place for all.”
The former conference room at Craven Hall 3706 is now a comfortable lounge with tables and chairs along with two laptops and a computer station. A widescreen television is also planned.
“Ideally what we want to do with this area is to make it a comfortable place for veterans to nonveterans to come in, relax and talk about similar experiences,” Marine Staff Sgt. Nicholas Wagner, Cal State San Marcos Student Veterans Association president, said. “The underlying idea is to simply improve the quality of life for all the students on campus and try to blur the lines between veterans and nonveterans.”
“We tend to listen a lot to the students on our campus, and because the students really wanted it, we decided to make it happen,” Victoria Hernandez, campus veterans affairs coordinator, said. “They really didn’t have one place to go. Now that they have somewhere … we’re hoping it brings veterans out that we don’t even know are here.”
The center is part of what many attendees perceived as a rising tide of pro-veterans sentiment.
“I’m loving it,” Moses Maddox, a veteran Marine and vice president of the Palomar College Veterans Student Alliance, said. “It’s really encouraging that we’re starting to get a lot of support from the people.” Maddox said he planned on going back to his college to lobby for a veterans center there.
Another goal for the center is to provide a central location to disseminate information to the approximately 300 students who are veterans, active-duty, or dependents of military personnel.
“There’s a lot of benefits out there for Veterans, but you can spend your whole life trying to find out what’s best for you and how to get it,” Marine Sgt. Ron Busnardo, an employee at the center, said.
The Veterans Center is located on the third floor of Craven Hall and will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.