By Samantha Hilyer
Veterans Day came early this year on the Saint Vincent campus when Mass was celebrated in honor of the Veterans Scholarship recipients – and those who have served in the military in general – in the Mother of Wisdom Chapel on Nov. 8, followed by an alumni luncheon.
Father Joe Adams, who is an Army veteran, was the celebrant of the Mass; Richard Schulte, an Army veteran and initiator of the scholarship, acted as the ceremony's emcee and read poems by war veterans; and Jim Bendel, planned giving officer and Navy veteran, gave a brief history about the scholarship.
Student members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) were in attendance along with the recipients themselves and other army veterans.
“[The Veterans Scholarship is] more of a thank you to vets [as a way] to make it easier for them to navigate the waters of the cost of college education,” Bendel said.
The scholarship, which was established three years ago, is awarded to returning veterans who choose to come to Saint Vincent in order to continue their education after their service.
“This is all designed to present a positive presentation of men and women who have served in the military,” Bendel said, regarding the ceremony.
As of now, according to Bendel, there is $80,000 in the scholarship fund which will mean $4,000 to $5,000 a year can be awarded. The money comes from gifts generously given by families who have had relatives in the service or have even been in the service themselves.
However, Bendel is still looking to grow funds so that the scholarship can be even more significant.
Traditionally, the scholarship was only received by one individual, with the 2018 scholarship being awarded to Mark Zebracki, but this year, Bendel was pleased to recognize four recipients of the scholarship: Andrea Gross, Nicholas Rega, Dowry Snyder and Eugene Yeo.
“I am very honored to have received the scholarship,” said Andrea Gross.
“There's really only one word for how I feel, and that is grateful,” said Nicholas Rega. “Though I am certain almost everyone would disagree with me, I don't think that I deserve the award. I am simply appreciative for living in an era where veterans are esteemed. To all the contributors, thank you.”
“I was delighted to receive the scholarship; the money is always welcome,” said Eugene Yeo. “What stood out to me, however, was that this was a scholarship in a large part for veterans, by veterans. I had the opportunity to meet a pair of World War II veterans during the luncheon, as well as see how veterans of every generation continue to reach out and help out the veterans’ community at large. It was a great honor all around."
According to Bendel, there is a history of Benedictines taking a part in the military and, in World War II, the Latrobe airport was used for training pilots for the Army Air Force. This rich tradition of supporting the military is one of the reasons that the Veteran Scholarship has been so successful.
As a Navy veteran himself, this scholarship has a special place in Bendel’s heart, who reflected back on his time in the service.
“Everybody who goes into the military has a story, you know. My story is rather simple,” he said.
When Bendel was three years old, his uncle was killed in World War II, and when he was a student at Saint Vincent, he decided to join the military as well.
“If my uncle could give his life by being in the military,” Bendel said, “then I certainly could give three or four years.”
However, Bendel spent almost 29 years in the Reserves.
“In putting on a uniform, I considered myself as a hawk for peace,” he said.
Veteran students looking to apply for next year’s scholarship can find more information at the financial aid office.