College vets honored

Every year on Nov. 11, veterans are remembered and honored for their service and the sacrifices they have made to defend the freedoms Americans are lucky to have.

Veterans at the College are no different.

At the Veterans Appreciation Day Program, “Honoring Our Own,” the veterans at the College were honored and remembered on the morning of Friday, Nov. 9.

Associate director of financial aid, Robert Alston, began the ceremony by asking the veterans in the room to stand for the audience to recognize them.

The Business Building lounge was nowhere near as packed with people as Alston mentioned it was each year. However, he said Hurricane Sandy may have prevented several people from coming.

About half the attendees stood, indicating they served in a war, while the audience applauded.

Alston recited “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, saying, “They are the masters of their fate. They are the captains of their soul.”

After the posting of the colors by four ROTC students at the College, Alston introduced Benedictus Paraan, an Air Force veteran and 24-year employee at the College.

Paraan was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 15 years old.

“Joining the military was our way of giving back to this country and the American people,” Paraan said. But in 1987, and after serving a short time in the Air Force, he was told he was not allowed to reenlist or wear his stripes because he “was not a naturalized citizen.”

He quickly got that taken care of so he could serve again.

Paraan saw the Berlin Wall fall, fought in Desert Storm, and served in Tallil Airfield where the infamous Jessica Lynch capture story took place. He teared when he spoke of 9/11 and how it “changed America and the world,” and laughed when he described some of his bases in the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean, which “sounds like a vacation.”

One of the moments that affected him while in service was not when he was fighting at all.

A fellow veteran and his wife had recently separated, and Paraan’s friend had stopped keeping in touch with everyone. His ex-wife began to worry and hacked into his email account, where she found a suicide note the veteran had not yet sent out.

Paraan notified his sergeants who then contacted his friend before he could harm himself, and got him the help he needed.

“My guardian angel kept me safe,” Paraan said, as he had experienced others were not so lucky. Veterans and families of the ones they lost were honored at the ceremony.

Kimberly Geonnotti, the Library’s bookkeeper at the College, is a gold star mother. She lost her son D.J. in Iraq, but was not able to attend the program.

“We paid a hefty price for the freedoms we have today,” Paraan said.