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For John “J.T.” Herwald, becoming an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army National Guard felt like a rite of passage.
The senior and president of the University of Pittsburgh’s student veterans association, PittVets, hails from a military family in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania. Both of his grandfathers were infantryman in the Marine Corps, two of his uncles were medical service officers in the Army during the Vietnam era and an older cousin served during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a logistics specialist in the Army. His own experience, he said, was life changing.
“The military has given me many amazing opportunities that I likely would not have been afforded had I not enlisted,” said Herwald, a history and geographic information systems major in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.
In addition to developing a network that spans from Singapore to France, he said the military has “given me a unique perspective for a young person my age. I have also been able to make lifelong friendships and this is by far one of the most important aspects to me.”
Herwald said the Office of Veterans Services (OVS) has been a pivotal part of his success at Pitt, and that he appreciates OVS-sponsored events like the Meet-A-Vet lunch on Nov. 7, where he’ll be a panelist, that give civilians a chance to connect with veterans in the community.
“The Office of Veterans Services has supported me extensively here at Pitt,” said Herwald, who will commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army National Guard following graduation in May 2023. “I wanted to build a network of veterans at Pitt and [OVS] really helped solidify a foundation of support. I was well taken care of by the office during my first year. They’ve provided me the opportunity to network, gain experience in my field of work as well as guide me through the often-challenging process of transitioning from active-duty service to University.”
He encourages anyone who can attend the Meet-A-Vet lunch to do so because it will present an opportunity to “hear the many different perspectives of military services as well as gain a better understanding of the unique challenges veterans face after the military,” he said.
The luncheon is just one of many events happening during Veterans Week across Pitt’s campuses. Here’s the full list:
Pitt Military Appreciation Football Game
Pitt football opens November against Syracuse on Nov. 5. The game between the long-time rivals will serve as Military Appreciation Day and Pitt’s way of honoring those who have and are currently serving with discounted tickets and special gameday experiences available for them and their families.
When: Nov. 5, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Acrisure Stadium
Tickets: From $25-$125
Veterans Breakfast Club
A free Veterans Breakfast Club will be held at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg in-person. Military veterans will share their stories to promote connection, healing, education and inspiration during the buffet.
When: Nov. 5, 8:30-10:30 a.m.
Where: Pitt-Greensburg, Chambers Hall, Hempfield Room. Reservations are required for this event.
Tickets: RSVP to UPGVeterans [at] pitt.edu or 724-836-7188 to attend
Pitt Warriors: Our Stories Mask Exhibit
The exhibit will feature paper masks created by Pitt veteran alumni, staff and students. Experience a veteran’s story as they visually share their successes and their struggles.
When: Nov. 7, 11, 8:30 a.m.-5p.m.
Where: McCarl Center, Wesley W. Posvar Hall, 1400
Pitt students are invited to hear from a panel of student veterans to learn about their time serving in the military, military culture and the unique identities that exist within this student population and their adjustment to student life. Learn more about the speakers.
When: Nov. 7, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Pitt, McCarl Center, Wesley W. Posvar Hall, 1400
Veteran Wellness and Resource Fair
The resource fair will present veteran-focused support resources for veterans and their families.
When: Nov. 8, 4-7 p.m.
Where: Pitt-Greensburg, Chambers Hall, Hempfield Room
Try It Out!
If you’ve ever wondered what MREs (meals ready to eat) taste like, the weight of a rucksack or how it feels to wear a helmet, then this event is for you. These items and more will be available to see, touch and try on. Additionally, attendees can enjoy a piece of birthday cake in celebration of the 247th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.
When: Nov. 9, 11:30 a.m.
Where: Pitt-Greensburg, Chambers Hall, The Bobcat
Veteran’s Week Luncheon
OVS will celebrate the successes and military history of Pitt veteran faculty, staff, alumni and students, as well as active military, National Guard and Reserves.
When: Nov. 9, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Where: Pitt, University Club, Conference Room A
Tickets: Register here
Screening of "Bastard's Road"
Watch the award-winning 2020 documentary, “Bastard's Road: Coming Home From War is Just the Beginning,” directed by Brian Morrison and written by Mark Stafford, which follows Jonathan Hancock, a USMC veteran, on a 5,800-mile journey around the country to converse with other veterans and their families. Topics include veteran suicide, wounds of war and positive messaging about healing. The film will be followed by a virtual Q&A with Hancock.
When: Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Pitt-Greensburg, Mary Lou Campana Chapel and Lecture Center
Rock your red for the Annual RED Out
Wear RED (Remembers Everyone Deployed) to show your support of deployed military personnel across the world. Also participate in the campus photo at noon at the Chambers Flag Poles.
Here’s how to get your RED out T-shirt. Proceeds will go to the Westmoreland County Food Bank’s Military Share Program.
When: Nov. 11, starts at midnight and goes all day
Veterans Day Honor Breakfast
To honor individuals’ military service and their loved ones, the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford will host a short program, including a breakfast donated by Metz and Associates and special speaker Vice President Emeritus K. James Evans, an Air Force veteran.
When: Nov. 11, 7-8 a.m.
Where: Pitt-Bradford, Frame-Westerberg Commons University Room
Tickets: RSVP no later than Nov. 10
Annual Veterans Luncheon
Pitt-Greensburg's chapter of Phi Eta Sigma, the national Freshman Honor Society, will host its annual Veterans Luncheon. This event is free and open to any military veteran and their family.
When: Nov. 11, 11 a.m.
Where: Pitt-Greensburg, Chambers Hall, Hempfield Room
— Kara Henderson, photography by Aimee Obidzinski