For a dozen students volunteering at the World War II memorial Saturday morning, raking leaves meant more than cleaning up a national monument — it was about honoring history.
The group was led by the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association, an organization that seeks to support veterans during their time on campus. Many members said that GUSVA’s service projects provide an opportunity for veterans to continue serving their country and practicing the military ethos.
“Being a part of the veterans program allows me to continue my service,” Theresa Hildson (SCS ’13) said. “It’s always great to be a part of something bigger than yourself. That is what I enjoyed about being in the Navy.”
For others, the project was an opportunity to show their support.
“We are out here cleaning up the area around the WWII memorial, and we are doing that to show our respect to WWII veterans,” Mark Miller (SCS ’12) said.
GUSVA President Colby Howard (SFS ’12) emphasized the importance of such community service to his organization’s mission.
“There is a role for community service, to act as an ambassador for the university and also to create productive dialogue between the university faculty, staff and also the student body for the betterment of student veterans at Georgetown,” Howard said.
GUSVA, which was founded in 2009 to advocate for veterans on campus, succeeded last spring in getting the School of Continuing Studies to fund a full-time position for a veterans’ affairs coordinator. Although there are no official counts of the number of veterans on campus, 271 students received veterans’ benefits last year.
One of the core goals of the group is to bring together all types of people to support veterans. The volunteer group included Georgetown students with various ties to the military, including ROTC and active duty members, veterans and students who have veterans in their families. Many nonmilitary students also turned out for the event to represent and advocate for other student groups.
“I’m here supporting GUSVA and veterans of WWII, trying to make the Mall a nicer place,” NooraMahmassani (COL ’15) said.
According to Brent Robbins, a maintenance worker with the National Park Service, the NPS is understaffed and depends on volunteers to help with the WWII memorial’s upkeep.
“For every 10 workers we need to maintain the memorial, we have two,” he said.
GUSVA’s members volunteered for about four hours Saturday morning tending to plants and cleaning the grounds around the World War II memorial.
Some veterans said they were particularly moved to see students with no military background eager to support the group’s efforts.
“There were a lot of veterans here who were actually emotional to see that there were students who weren’t in the military that cared,” said Nicole Heydt (COL ’13), director of community outreach forGUSVA.