More than 60 students, faculty and community members gathered in the barn theater at the Catonsville campus of Community College of Baltimore County on Monday to celebrate Veterans Day.
At the ceremony, it was clear why the college was recently named Best for Vets by the Military Times.
Various speakers addressed the audience — which included about 10 veterans — about the importance of recognizing veterans and about services available to them on campus.
"The veterans, they've done their duty; they've served our country," said Anthony T. Alleyne Sr, the campus veterans center administrator. "We knew that veterans are coming [to CCBC] with some extra, additional obstacles, and we wanted to try our best to eliminate those obstacles.
Alleyne spoke about the campus' Veterans Center and Veterans Club, both of which offer informational and transitional programs for veterans throughout their collegiate careers at CCBC. Those programs include Veterans Integration To Academic Leadership — a Veterans Affairs Mental Health program that offers access to health care.
Among CCBC's roughly 950 veteran students — 446 are enrolled at the Catonsville campus — is Elizabeth Bell, a U.S. Army veteran.
Bell attended Monday's event and said she commutes from Hopewell, Va. every day to attend classes at the college, which she chose specifically for its veterans services.
"They have a student club for veterans," Bell said. "That was my main concern. The employment services and the library are great for veterans."
Though she said she would be spending the rest of her Veterans Day studying for a Tuesday exam, Bell said she had to make time for that morning's event.
"I'm very happy that they are honoring us," she said.
Scott Cunningham, a CCBC graduate and current faculty member, also attended the event Monday. Cunningham served across the globe as an air crewman in the U.S. Air Force from 2000 to 2005, including numerous stints in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said the college's inclusive attitude toward veterans empowers them to view themselves as valuable students, employees and general civilians after they return home.
"I owe everything that I do to the time that I served," Cunningham said. "I was only in for five years, but being a veteran is a big part of my life."
He said the campus' veterans services office was a huge asset while he was a student.
"I could focus on school, not all on how it was going to be paid for," he said.
Dels. James Malone Jr. and Steven DeBoy both spoke Monday, thanking the veterans in the audience for their service.
"I think we need to remember it's just not about Nov. 11," Malone said. "It's about how, every day, veterans and men and women in action protecting us today are doing that for our benefit."
Sandra Kurtinitis, CCBC's president, spoke to attendees about the importance of the freedoms Americans enjoy, and about how fortunate they are to live in a country where those freedoms can be exercised.
"One thing that we have here that they [in other countries] do not is that we make change with ballots instead of bullets," Kurtinitis said. "I know that a lot of the reason we can do that is because we have men and women who serve in the armed forces to make sure that our freedoms stay free and stay safe."
She mentioned the Best for Vets title from the Military Times and how proud she is to be part of a school that is so welcoming to veterans.
"We are the only Maryland college to hold that stature," she said. "That is very special."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun