University Community Honors Those Who Have Served for their Courage and Sacrifice
The University community recently celebrated Veterans Day and recognized the dedication and service of veterans and servicemembers. As part of its annual Veterans Day Observance, 10 student veterans who served during a time of war received the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal.
November 21, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Jessica Guglielmo ’24 describes her decision to join the U.S. Navy as “the best decision I could have ever made.” Her service was meaningful for a variety of reasons – it enabled her to travel the world, build leadership and teamwork skills, and be a part of a family.
“It was an honor to be recognized by other respected and valued members of the community,” said Guglielmo, a national security major. “It was empowering to be standing with my peers at the University of New Haven. I’m proud to have served our country and to be recognized by the state in which I grew up.”
‘Military service helps shape who we are’
The ceremony provides a way for the University community to come together to honor and express gratitude for those who have served. Ryan Noonan ’20, ’23 M.S., the University’s manager of military and veteran affairs, shared a brief history of Veterans Day, which was originally known as “Armistice Day” following the end of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
Noonan himself is a veteran, having served two combat deployments to the Anbar province of Iraq as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. He said that the generations of veterans who have come before have set an example, and he encouraged current servicemembers to offer direction to future servicemembers.
“I’m particularly reflective on Veterans Day as we look back on not only our own individual time in service, but that of veterans across the nation,” said Noonan. “The accomplishments and achievements of our nation’s veterans are evident and do not end with military service. Just as the student veterans with us today show, military service helps shape who we are and gives us the tools succeed.”
‘I like working for something meaningful’
As part of the ceremony, the University welcomed Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston, the Army’s top enlisted leader, and Army Major Kristen Griest, one of the first female rangers and the first female infantry officer in U.S. history.
Grinston, who has held every enlisted leadership position in artillery from cannon crewmember to command sergeant major, serves as the Army chief of staff’s personal adviser on matters affecting the enlisted force. A member of a variety of councils and boards that make decisions affecting enlisted soldiers and their families, Grinston is often invited to testify before Congress. He travels extensively, observing training and interacting with soldiers and their families.
Grinston commended servicemembers for all they have done, from their service to the country to their dedication to their communities. As he spoke, he reminded attendees that their Army is “closer than they think,” and he urged veterans to share positive stories about their service. He also reflected on his own career.
“If I could go back and do another 35 years, I would – because my family is worth it,” said Grinston, the public face of the U.S. Army’s Noncommissioned Officer Corps (NCO). “Our Soldiers are worth it. This Nation is worth it. You’re worth it.”
For Griest, who grew up in nearby Orange, Conn., serving has been about helping people and being a part of a meaningful mission. She shared her own story and why she felt called to serve her country. Moved by the attacks on 9/11 and inspired by her grandfather, who served in World War II, Griest also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Bridgeport as a teenager. She says the experience helped lead her to a path of service.
"I liked doing something that you could feel good about at the end of the day and serving other people,” she said. “I realized I like working on a team, I like working with my hands outside, and I like working for something meaningful and for other people.”
'The service and sacrifices that the veterans before us have made’
It was this commitment to service for which the Connecticut Wartime Service Medal recipients were recognized. Joseph Danao ’04 M.S., director of projects and operations for the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, presented the awards to the 10 students who all served during a time of war.
For Eva Maldonado ’23 M.S., who was among the award recipients, that service brought her around the world. As a member of the U.S. Navy, she served on the USS Essex (LHD-2), an assault ship, where she was stationed in Sasebo, Japan, from 2005 to 2008.
Maldonado also served in war zones during Operation Iraqi Freedom, where she was on board a ship that delivered Marines to the beach through the Strait of Hormuz. An operations specialist who specialized in surface and air warfare and navigation, she served on a ship that spent nearly 300 days of every calendar year at sea.
“Being recognized for my service during wartime is a great honor for me and my family,” said Maldonado, a candidate in the University’s graduate program in cybersecurity and networks. “I have been able to experience and achieve consistently because of my Naval service. It is an experience that I will always cherish and be grateful for, the good and the bad.”
The poignant ceremony honored all veterans and recognized the nearly 250 veteran students at the University. Guglielmo, the national security major, says it was an important way for the University community to come together to observe Veterans Day and to honor the important contributions and service of veterans and servicemembers.
“I think it is important to recognize our country’s history and the service and sacrifices that the veterans before us have made,” she said. “The military and the University of New Haven are prideful on leading by example. I don’t think there is a better way they could have done this for the ROTC cadets and student veterans than by bringing in the Sergeant Major of the Army and decorated noncommissioned officers to share their wisdom and talk about their experiences.”