Glendale Community College student and Army veteran Kristel Vear told fellow veterans on Tuesday that every Memorial Day is a somber one for her as she remembers the fallen.
The 30-year-old who was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq said she remembers her friends who died either overseas or at home while in the service.
“I can’t describe it in words — this day — Memorial Day. It’s hard,” she said at a ceremony to commemorate the patriotic holiday.
At age 18, Vear enlisted in the Army “to be a part of something that was bigger than myself,” she said, and she went on to serve in, besides the Middle East, Hawaii, Colorado and Korea.
At Glendale Community College, she became a founding member of the college’s Veteran’s Assn. in 2012, and currently serves as the group’s president.
Working alongside her to establish the club was fellow student veteran Leo Perez, who served in the Marine Corps.
“I was just looking for a place where, if I needed help, somebody could help me or if somebody needed help, I could try to help them,” he said.
The campus opened its Veterans Resource Center in 2013 and it’s a place where veterans can study and socialize, equipped with several computer stations, a refrigerator and a coffee maker. It was established with a $12,000 grant from the Youssef and Kamel Mawardi Fund.
In the little time that the center and club have been established, it has allowed dozens of student veterans to connect with each other after returning home and enrolling in classes.
Vear is currently focusing on health administration in her studies to be able to work at a clinic or Veterans Assn. hospital.
“I want to continue giving back to veterans,” she said.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, Marine Corps veteran Anthony Martinez also called attention to a table set for one that served as a symbol of prisoners of war or those missing in action.
A white table cloth draped over the table symbolized the military member’s “purity of intention” and a slice of lemon on the table stood for “bitter fate,” he said.
Three student veterans folded an American flag to honor veterans who have not returned home.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.