The NYU veteran and military community celebrated its inaugural Veterans Ball with nearly 100 people in attendance on Sunday night. Hosted by the Military Veterans Alliance, the Veterans Ball aimed to build a sense of community among New York City students, faculty and staff who are veterans or active members of the military.
The ball hosted Col. Joseph D. Davidson, Capt. Michael Day and Ret. Col. Terrance Holliday as its guests of honor. Holliday and Day both spoke of their military service in the Air Force and Coast Guard, respectively. Student veterans from other colleges, including Columbia University, were also present.
NYU Military Veterans Alliance President and Steinhardt senior Nina Vizcarrondo introduced Day, who led efforts to evacuate hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers off of lower Manhattan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
After receiving a standing ovation, Day said the lessons he learned on 9/11 could be applicable to the military and veteran community today.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Day said. “It’s something we all learn as veterans and active duty.”
In his speech, Holliday emphasized the importance of student veteran groups as networks for active duty and veteran students to support one another. He recounted his time working for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying that the mayor’s office of veteran affairs, among many government offices, are available to serve the military veteran community’s needs.
“What you need to understand is that nobody is giving you a gratuity or a break,” Holliday said. “You have earned it with your service.”
The New York City Veterans Alliance was also awarded a certificate of recognition for their dedication to New York City veterans and advocacy. Founding Director Capt. Kristen Rouse accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Another award went to the Tandon School of Engineering’s Veteran Entrepreneur Training Program, which equips veterans with the skills necessary for developing startups.
The night ended with incoming Military Veterans Alliance President and Steinhardt junior Rishi Soneja announcing an award for family members and significant others who support active duty servicemembers and veterans every day. He then proposed to his girlfriend, prompting thunderous applause from the onlookers.
Student Resource Center Assistant Director Rollie Carencia said the event was an incredible success.
“I am honestly speechless,” Carencia said. “It was a full house, which I think we didn’t really expect. But we’re so happy that not only NYU student veterans and offices that supported us showed up, but also external community members, such as the Veterans Alliance and Columbia University. This was such a successful community effort.”
GSAS alumna Allison Churchill agreed, saying it was moving to see the military veteran community unite for the night.
“I’m happy that so many people came out tonight,” Churchill said. “I think it’s the best example of [the military/veteran community] because everytime I’ve gone to a veterans event it’s been just a little bit better than the one before. This is a really good next step and a really good chance for a lot of the different schools to come together and enjoy each other’s company.”
Carencia said he hopes the veteran community will continue to grow after the success of the first Veterans Ball.
“The veteran community here at NYU is developing, and I think it has been in the shadows for a while,” Carencia said. “But having an event like this really puts them on a platform of visibility. Now they have an identity here on campus.”
A version of this story appeared in the Monday, April 11 print issue. Email Anne Cruz at [email protected]