As I think about Veterans Day, I am reminded of my father’s service. He was a flight surgeon during the end of World War II. He spent time in Japan before returning to the States and retiring from the military in 1954. He completed his surgery residency in Birmingham, Alabama, where I was born.
Like many of those in the service at the time, my father didn’t talk about the war. It was always a bit of a mystery to me. He brought back a pair of Japanese clogs and a scroll, but the details of his time overseas were stored securely in his memory until the day he died.
Service to our country ran deep in my family. My grandfather on my mother’s side served in WWI. He was a part of a platoon launched in tethered balloons to observe what was happening on the ground. These observation balloons were used as an aerial platform for intelligence and artillery spotting.
When it came my time to serve, the war was Vietnam and my number was up quite literally–the draft was in full swing. My draft number was 87. The previous year, the U.S. military had drafted lottery numbers up to 125. As my mother agonized over my fate, President Nixon ended the draft.
Even though I was never drafted, that single event affected the trajectory of my life in so many ways. As a teenager, I didn’t make future plans because the future, at that time, was a luxury that many young men were not afforded.
But I was lucky to attend Reed College in Oregon where I discovered that higher education – and science – was my calling. I see this as my form of service to a country that has given me and my family so much.
Today I am thinking about service and our veterans at USC – an institution that is no stranger to military and veterans. For more than 100 years, USC has served our veterans through unlimited-unlimited Yellow Ribbon benefits, a free application process, a summer program for high-school children of military families, a Master’s of Business for Veterans, an active Veterans Resource Center, the groundbreaking program With Your Shield: A McMorrow Veterans Initiative, a partnership with the national Warrior-Scholar Project, special student housing for veterans, and our most recent successful Veterans and Military Families Recruiting Night.
This last was campus-wide partnership between the Office of the Provost, Career Center, Sol Price School of Public Policy, Sol Price Office of Career Services, Center for Innovative Research on Veterans and Military Families (CIR), Student Veterans Association, and Veterans Resource Center. The career recruiting night was open to all veteran students, alumni, veteran community members and their families. Also attending were military members from Edwards Air Force Base, LA Air Force Base, and San Diego bases.
Fortune 100 companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies participated. Microsoft served as an event sponsor and other companies and agencies represented at the recruitment night included Spectrum, L’Oréal, the San Francisco Police Department, and the U.S. Secret Service, to name just a few.
The event this fall was our most successful: We had the highest employer and candidate attendance in the history of this event. A total of 221 job seekers attended the recruitment night.
As we celebrate those who have served our great country, let’s always cherish USC’s rich history with our service women and men. We should always be thankful and grateful for our veterans’ contributions to our university as we fight on together. For more information on resources available to our veterans please visit our website at https://military.usc.edu/. Happy Veterans Day.
— Charles F. Zukoski, November 11, 2019