CINCINNATI — The University of Cincinnati recognized veterans on campus Wednesday ahead of Veterans Day.
University officials said there are 1,868 student veterans or dependents of veterans enrolled at UC for the 2021-22 school year.
Within the past year, 274 student veterans or veteran dependents graduated. James Wiggins is one of them.
“It’s only once a year that we have the celebration,” Wiggins said. “This was nice to come out and see.”
Wiggins served in the Air Force for seven years before enrolling at UC.
“You lose all the structure,” Wiggins said. “Finding a job, financial support is difficult to start out. But then once you get in the groove of things, it’s just like anything else, you learn how to navigate everything. And that’s something taught in the military.”
James Wiggins is a student at UC. He also spent seven years serving in the @usairforce. Today: @uofcincy recognized student veterans on campus. Hear their stories at 5 on @WCPO pic.twitter.com/0DXaGYUMav— Madeline Ottilie (@OttilieMadeline) November 10, 2021
Other students currently serving in the military also joined the event.
“I joined right out of high school,” said Sgt. Emily Lacy, a third-year student. “You know, from an immigrant family, I was kind of put at the front to lead and kind of change the direction of my life and my younger siblings, so I joined the military.”
Lacy ultimately plans to apply to law school — something she said she "never saw" for herself before.
“They've been overseas,” said Terence Harrison, Program Manager of UC’s Veterans Programs and Services. “They've been away from their families and to come back here and really settle in as a life as a college student, sometimes it can be challenging, but at the same time, they have a unique perspective of the world.”
Veterans among the university’s faculty and staff were recognized too, like campus executive chef Barry Howard.
“I just feel good, you know, as a veteran that’s getting recognized,” Howard said.
“I think it's important to see the UC community celebrating military veterans and letting them know how important they have been in the country,” said Lt. Col. Evelyn Fitzwater, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Nurse Corps and associate professor emerita with UC's College of Nursing. “UC has a long history of doing that.“
For Wiggins, the traditions mean more than recognition — they offer a chance to bring veterans together.
“I had a guy when I first got out that went through some rough stuff, but he was alone,” Wiggins said. “These types of communities I think do bring those people that have been through similar situations, they can work through those problems together."