ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – On Monday, Bay College brought generations of veterans together for an online event.
Veterans from the U.P. and beyond participated in the Bay College Civic Corps’ second annual Veterans Speak webinar via Zoom.
“Veterans Speak is an intergenerational dialogue event that’s given in service to veterans,” explained Dr. June Klees, Historian and Social Behavioral Science Educator at Bay College. “The goal is for students to gain pre-professional experience as they organize this event, but more so to work in our community to serve our community by highlighting their stories.”
Speakers included veterans who served during various wars and in various branches. The keynote speaker was Merchant Marine veteran Dave Yoho, who began his service at the age of 15.
“We were just coming out of a horrible, horrible depression, and life was not all that good for lower middle-class people,” he said. “I was one of many who decided we wanted to be part of the action.”
Yoho and other veterans discussed the maturity military service requires and brings out of service members.
“You go from being a teen to instant adulthood,” said Yoho. “You’re expected to do what adults do. You’re training to fill a man’s spot.”
“Experiences we get in the military actually prepare us probably better for life than all of the book learning education that is out there,” Army nurse veteran Jan Lepinski said.
Speakers then looked to the future, offering advice to anyone in the next generation considering military service.
“I was 17, just turned 18,” said Navy veteran Chris Cooper. “I got to see the world. I got to meet a lot of amazing people. I would encourage anyone to take a hard look at it and make that decision if they think that it’s right for them or not.”
Dr. Klees hopes this and future Veterans Speak events allow vets to connect with each other by sharing their stories.
“I had the privilege of attending the National Veterans Day Ceremony in Washington, D.C., and one of our wounded warriors mentioned how important it is for our veterans to hear these stories from other veterans,” she said. “It’s important to their health and wellbeing. It is really reinforcing this work that the students are doing, that it truly is an act of service.”
Dr. Klees says Bay College students and community members also want veterans to feel their support.
“They’re part of our daily lives,” she said. “They’re part of our history, and we need to remember what others have given for us.”
The Bay College Civic Corps presented Veterans Speak in partnership with the American Merchant Marine Veterans, the American Legion, Great Lakes Peace Center, and Waging Dialogue.