A grateful Vaughn College community paid tribute to its veterans Thursday (Nov. 10) with an hour-long ceremony in the main lobby that included speeches, words of thanks and prayerful reflection.

Organized by Jean Rivera, the college’s chief veterans liaison, and Saralda Ortiz, its director of pre-college programs, the ceremony opened with a welcome from Senior Vice President Dr. Sharon DeVivo, who noted the unique skill sets veterans and their families bring to the College.

“You learn adaptabiity in a military family,” she said, “and you certainly become able to connect with people of different backgrounds and cultures.”

About 140 current Vaughn students have served or are serving in the military. Faculty and staff who have served include Director of Admissions Celso Alvarez (Army), Profs. Al Pero (Navy) and Joseph Zych (Air Force) and College President Dr. John Fitzpatrick (Air Force). The ceremony came one day before Veterans Day—Vaughn is closed for the holiday—and on the birthday of the Marine Corps.

Veterans received special pins to commemorate their service and were invited to address the College community. Professor John Jadonath, a member of the Aviation Training Institute faculty who served 23 years in the Army and was a member of the elite Rangers, recalled his experiences in combat. Jadonath was shot, had numerous broken bones and watched a comrade die in Iraq in 2006. He also served in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

“I was broken but the military helped put me back together,” Jadonath said. “The military took care of me and it’s great that Vaughn recognizes everyone who served in the military.”

Aviation Professor Dr. Robin Ruggiero served with the Air Force in Vietnam, rising to the rank of colonel. He noted how different times are now than when he returned from combat 40 years ago.

“A lot of things have changed for the good for veterans,” he said. “The vets that are coming home now are welcomed back, and that wasn’t the case in the Vietnam era. Today they are getting the support they need and that’s a good thing.”


Sgt. Juliet Shum of the Marine Corps receives a thank-you pin from Jean Rivera, the college’s chief veterans liaison, and Jerima DeWese, dean of student development. Below, Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Ramos is recognized by Rivera and Saralda Ortiz, director of pre-college programs.