MRE - Military Recognition Event - honors student-veterans, faculty, staff

November 07, 2016

In advance of Veterans Day, Saint Leo University and the Office of Military Affairs and Services, hosted an MRE on Friday, November 4. No, it wasn’t a chow line filled with Meals Ready to Eat. This was a Military Recognition Event to honor the university’s student-veterans, ROTC, and faculty and staff members who served in the armed forces.

The event’s goal was to provide information, services, and therapeutic activities while recognizing members of the Saint Leo community for their service to their country.

K9-Partners -for -Patriots -service -dog

Representatives from various veterans’ organizations, K9 Partners for Patriots, the James A. Haley Veterans Affairs Hospital, and Pasco County Veterans Services among others, offered assistance at the event, which took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Bowl at University Campus.

Vetspeak featured student-veterans sharing stories of their service. Jennifer Harman, who is enrolled in the Master of Arts in Creative Writing program, read from her manuscript about her experience following the Washington Navy Yard shooting in Washington, DC in September 2013. Saint Leo’s low-residency Master of Arts in Creative Writing program offers a unique option in which those who are interested in writing about their military and war experiences may enroll in courses in fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry that reflect wartime or postwar experiences.

Harman served as a mass communication specialist for 10 years in the Navy and following her service, was working as a communications analyst at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) at the Washington Navy Yard, when a lone gunman fatally shot 12 people and injured three others in the NAVSEA headquarters building, where she worked. 

Jennifer -Harmon

Despite the prevalence of counselors and therapy dogs, Harman found herself “bonded to the floor of my two-bedroom penthouse apartment.

“All I could hear was the blare of sirens in my head,” she read from her manuscript.

Several days after the shooting, Harman took her dog for a walk. She encountered a friend. When the friend asked how she was, “fine,” was Harmon’s response. But her friend knew better.

“She said, ‘It’s OK to cry.’ And so I did,” Harman said.

Harman read several excerpts from her paper throughout the course of the MRE. Music was another part of Vetspeak, with songs relating to military service and transition playing. “I know how it feels to be a soldier,” one song stated.

And Saint Leo now has a military fraternity, Omega Delta Sigma. The organization is open to student-veterans who have at least six undergraduate credits or three graduate credits, said John Morgan, president of Omega Delta Sigma. Morgan, a U.S. Army veteran, is a social work student at Saint Leo. He hopes to become a social worker and help veterans when he completes his degree.

“A lot of us [student-veterans], when we leave the military, we don’t connect with other students, but we do with other veterans,” Morgan said. Omega Delta Sigma will help with transition, establish camaraderie, and perform charitable works to support the community and the university.

“Our motto is Professional, Scholars, Warriors,” Morgan said. Serving as vice president of the fraternity is Justin Ball, who is majoring in criminology, and graduated from the police academy in August. Ball also is U.S. Army veteran.

If interested in joining this new organization, email Morgan at or Ball at

Therapy options offered at Friday’s MRE included walking meditation and art therapy.

Dr. Veronika Ospina-Kammer, associate professor of social work and director of Bachelor of Social Work field placement, created a Native American medicine wheel, which is symbolic of the never-ending cycle of life. The wheel is used for walking meditation, which is an excellent stress-reducer. At University Campus, the Peaceful Reflections Garden on the south side of Saint Edward Hall, is used for walking meditation.

Jose -Caban -demonstrates -an -art -technique

Jose Caban, associate vice president of Facilities Management, led student-veterans and other students in art therapy. Most students created abstract paintings using bright colors and bursts of paint.

Saint Leo will hosts its Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m., Friday, November 11, by the School of Business loggia. All are welcome. State Representative Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, will be the guest speaker.