Alumnus Photographs Veterans

SJSU alumnus Tom Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography, is on a 24-city photographic journey. At each stop he takes photos of World War II veterans.

“The goal of this assignment is to create a greater appreciation for all veterans and soldiers,” Sanders said. “The veterans get the opportunity to tell their story and be honored before they pass away, to preserve their stories and images for future generations.”

Sanders got the idea for the veteran photo project after snapping photos of a World War II vet for a senior project at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. During the shoot, the vet told him a spine-chilling story that he says put his life into perspective.

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The Power of Gratitude: Coming Home

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Dylan Wondra,’13 Behavioral Science/Anthropology

“This scholarship does something extra to help soldiers coming home. It makes us feel appreciated.”

Two weeks after Sept. 11, 2001—on the day after his 17th birthday—Dylan Wondra, ’13 Behavioral Science/Anthropology, enlisted in the Navy. His heart filled with purpose and patriotic duty, he rose rapidly through the ranks as an airman, covering the globe by sea and land, and eventually, deciding to pursue a college education—something he never thought he’d do.

“To go from excelling at military life to being the lowest and the oldest student in remedial classes is incredibly difficult,” says Wondra. But a year into San Jose State, he was back at the top of his game. Newly married, he had just been recognized as a Dean’s Scholar in 2011 when he received word that he was to deploy—this time to Kuwait for 15 months. With his life “flipped upside down,” Wondra once again put his education on hold.

After returning to SJSU in spring 2013, Wondra received a veteran’s scholarship, funded by Cisco. “I believe that all student veterans deserve the scholarship money due to their unwavering dedication to the United States of America,” he says. With a pregnant wife at home, the scholarship was especially useful. “It’s so nice that there is a scholarship program just for veterans. Finding a job is the hardest part for vets,” says Wondra, who turned down a job in law enforcement to pursue new passions through education. “This scholarship does something extra to help soldiers coming home. It makes us feel appreciated.”

View The Power of Gratitude series.

Reflecting on 9/11

Events on Tower Lawn and at Spartan Chapel will reflect on the terrorist attacks, which will also be discussed in an international politics class (Christina Olivas photo).

Although 12 years have passed since the terrorist attacks, the events of the day remain fresh on the minds of many at San Jose State.

The Veterans Student Organization will host a memorial service from 8:30 to 10:03 a.m. Sept. 11 on Tower Lawn. Speakers will pause three times for moments of silence, signifying each plane crash.

Canterbury Bridge will host a discussions open to all faiths. “The Root Causes of Violence” will begin at 3 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Guadalupe Room of the Student Union.

Reflecting on 9/11 will also be taking place in many classes campuswide. SJSU Today asked Associate Professor of Political Science Karthika Sasikumar about her experiences.

Not only was she teaching in New York on 9/11, but she continues to teach international politics today, connecting an event that many students are too young to recall personally to the shocking news out of Syria this week.

***

Remembering 9/11

Karthika Sasikumar, second from left, leading a first-year writing seminar, “Militaries and Societies in the Modern Age,” at Cornell University shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 (photo courtesy of Robert Barker/Cornell University Photography).

SJSU Today: Please tell me briefly about your experience teaching. Were you in the classroom on 9/11?

Professor Sasikumar: I’m Indian and my family still lives in India. I was living in Ithaca, NY, in 2001. I was a graduate student at Cornell University on 9/11. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning and I was on a bus to campus when I heard about the planes. I rushed to the computer lab and tried to find out what was going on. Most U.S. news websites had crashed due to heavy traffic, so I started looking at Indian websites. So right from the start I had a different, international perspective on the event.

At the time, I was teaching a first year writing seminar with 17 students. It was titled “Societies and Militaries in the Modern Age.” It was the first class where I was the instructor. And I was two weeks into it—when this hit.

Many of my students were from New York City or had family there. Many of them lost either someone they knew or had close family or friends that had lost a loved one. When I saw them for the first time after 9/11, they looked stunned and stiff. For most, it was their first encounter with death.

I changed the syllabus and started looking up material on Afghanistan, as it became clear that the United States would invade that country. In class, I had to be careful because there was a lot of anger and unreasoning emotion which I wanted to respect—I tried not to make the discussion too academic. At the same time, I emphasized to students that it was important to ask hard questions about U.S. policy.

SJSU Today: Tell me a little bit about how your approach to leading students through reflection on 9/11 has changed over the years.

Professor Sasikumar: 9/11 was a very important milestone in my life. It also changed my research. I included a chapter on the emerging counter-terrorism regime in my dissertation. Right after 9/11, Americans, especially the youth, were extremely motivated to learn about foreign countries in general and particularly about South Asia and Islam. Many students told me it was the event that motivated them to become political science majors.

As the years passed and emotions faded, I became less hesitant about questioning people’s assumptions about 9/11. The war in Iraq was key in making Americans more cynical and more insular.

SJSU Today: And how has the student response changed as the years go by, keeping mind your move from New York to California?

Professor Sasikumar: Last year, I used the anniversary of 9/11 as a prompt for an online discussion for my class “War and Peace” (POLS 150). I asked students, who had just encountered various definitions of war, to reflect on the “war on terror.” I started by asking them to recount their own emotions on 9/11.

I was in for a shock. Several of the responses were banal and casual. I realized that there was a new generation of students entering my (virtual and real) classroom. These were students who were too young to have their own memories and were filtering them through the media and family recollections. One student wrote about how her kindergarten teacher lined them up for early dismissal! I can no longer assume that 9/11 was as important to this new generation as it was to me. I would say that distance from the event, rather than distance from the East Coast, has been more important in this regard.

SJSU Today: Finally, in class tomorrow, will you tie 9/11 and Syria? How does our 9/11 experience as a nation inform our response to Syria?

Professor Sasikumar: In class tomorrow (“United States Foreign Policy,” POLS 154) the syllabus topic is foreign policy decision-making. The assigned readings talk about the divisions within the U.S. State Department as well as the conflict between the Pentagon and State.

I will begin by asking students if they think 9/11 influenced them and their leaders. Then I will have them read a piece called “The Taming of Samantha Power,” in which a prominent voice calling for intervention is shown to be tamed by the post-9/11 hatred of the United States. Yet Power is also making the case for the invasion of Syria, by predicting that inaction now “eventually compels us to use force anyway down the line, at far greater risk and cost to our own citizens,” which I take to be a reference to 9/11 and the policies that led up to it—specifically the U.S. decision to extract itself from Afghanistan after the end of the Cold War.

 

Veterans Receive Scholarships

Veterans Receive Scholarships

Veterans Receive Scholarships

The Veterans Students Organization thanked the donors with a surprise gift: a “challenge coin,” traditionally presented by a military leaders to subordinates for special achievements (Damian Bramlett photo).

Mark Loveless recalls eating a heck of a lot of macaroni and cheese after enrolling at SJSU fresh out of the military.

But not for long. After graduating with a business degree in 1978, Loveless began what became a highly successful 30-year career in accounting and entrepreneurial firms here in the Bay Area.

So it meant a lot when he returned March 14 for the first-ever SJSU Veterans Advisory Committee and Community Partners Scholarship Awards Ceremony.

“Hopefully this will help you buy a few books and the occasional a steak dinner,” Loveless quipped, after presenting a $5,000 scholarship to accounting major Kristopher Vallecer.

In total, seven vets and military personnel who are SJSU students received scholarships ranging in value from $1,000 to $5,000: José Calderon, Justice Studies; Serena Chan, Child and Adolescent Development; David Norman, Business Administration/Management; Patrick Rocero, Occupational Therapy; Dylan Wondra, Behavioral Science; Randy Ray Woods, Earth Science; and Kristopher Vallecer, Accounting.

Donors included the Lovelesses, Mark Farabaugh and Cisco Systems. The event was one of several efforts underway aimed at “creating a more veteran friendly campus,” said Anne Demers, Veterans Advisory Committee chair and assistant professor of health science.

Scholarship criteria included financial need, academic performance, letters of recommendation and personal statements.

The Veterans Students Organization thanked the donors with a surprise gift: a “challenge coin,” traditionally presented by a military leaders to subordinates for special achievements.

Damian Bramlett, a veteran, alumnus and coordinator of the Veterans Adminisration’s VITAL Program at SJSU, explained the coin can mean many things — gratitude, membership, loyalty.

That well reflects the thoughts shared by one scholarship recipient.

“This is the second best thing that’s happened recently,” he said, “with the best thing being going go back to school.”

NPR: Professor Discusses “When a Child Comes Home From War”

NPR: Professors Discusses on "When a Child Comes Home From War"

Miranda Worthen

Posted by NPR Nov. 12, 2012.

Assistant Professor of Health Science Miranda Worthen served as a guest on “Talk of the Nation” to discuss her 2012 study of veterans living with parents after deployment. In an introduction to the show’s transcript, NPR writes “since 2001, more than 1.9 million sons and daughters have been deployed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. For many young veterans, homecoming can be a time of mixed emotions and changing family dynamics after a life-changing experience at war.” Worthen addressed questions from guests and callers who were veterans, encouraging families, particularly for single soldiers, to act on the “incredible opportunity that they have to support their young veterans who are coming back.”  Listen to the entire show or read the transcript.

Back-to-School Event for Veterans

SJSU Offers Back-to-School Event for Military Veterans

Speakers included Mark Pinto, an SJSU Career Center veterans student assistant (Christina Olivas photo).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Students who are military veterans started fall 2012 with a new back-to-school event and program designed to facilitate their adjustment to and success in academic life.

Held Aug. 22 in the Burdick Military History Project Lounge (Industrial Studies 239), the event was open to all vets, including the nearly 290 SJSU students here on the G.I. Bill. For a full agenda, see below.

Damian Bramlett, an Army infantry veteran, graduate student, and SJSU’s new veteran coordinator, was among the organizers. He noted the event was to include guest speakers from various departments within the university discussing the benefits and services available to veterans on campus.”

Joining together to organize the event were the SJSU Career Center, SJSU Center for Community Learning and Leadership, and a new office supporting students who are veterans.

The VITAL Initiative

SJSU is one of 15 colleges and universities selected for the second cohort of VITAL, the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) initiative, a Veterans Administration program founded in November 2011.

Collaborating on SJSU’s VITAL proposal were Bramlett, Professor of Psychology Annabel Prins, who is also a clinical psychologist with the VA National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Palo Alto VA clinical psychologist Shana Spangler.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday in Clark Hall 240A, VITAL offers services beyond the educational benefits articulated by the G.I. Bill, including housing assistance, health and mental health care coverage, and VA home loans.

Other planned VITAL services are individually tailored resource maps for connecting with campus and community resources; outreach to community colleges to facilitate transferring to SJSU; faculty and staff training on veteran mental health issues; and maintenance, enhancement, and evaluation of the National Center for PTSD campus toolkit.

***

10 a.m. Welcoming Remarks, Professor of History Jonathan Roth
10:10 a.m. Center for Community Learning & Leadership and veterans course, Professor Elena Klaw
10:15 a.m. SJSU Counseling Services, Elaine Chin
10:20 a.m. Education Benefits, Andrei Ingalla
10:25 a.m. SJSU Career Center, Melodie Cameron
10:30 a.m. VITAL, Shana Spangler
10:35 a.m. Veterans Student Organization, Mark Pinto
10:40 a.m. Disability Resource Center, Amy Lehman
10:45 a.m. Q & A

A female (left) and male (right) basketball player with Spartan head (center). Background is american flag.

Spartan Athletics: Military Appreciation Day

A female (left) and male (right) basketball player with Spartan head (center). Background is american flag.

Military Appreciation Day will be Dec. 19 & 20.

San Jose State University invites all active members of the military to join us for two upcoming Spartan basketball games on December 19 and 20 as we honor the men and women who serve our country.

Active service members can show their military ID and purchase discounted tickets for either the women’s basketball game against Air Force on December 19 or the men’s basketball game against UC Davis on December 20. Both games tipoff at 7:00 p.m.

This is a great opportunity for our servicemen and women to come out and enjoy some exciting college basketball action as we honor military personnel from every military branch throughout the game.

Tickets for these games are available now at the Spartan Athletics Ticket Office. For more information, call 408.924.7589 or stop by the ticket office located at 1393 South 7th Street across the street form Spartan Stadium.

Read more on Spartan Athletics.

Jack Harding, left, and Natalie Harding pin lieutenant stripes to the uniform of their son, Jack Jr. Photo courtesy of Jack Harding.

Matriarch Influences Family’s Military Service

Jack Harding Sr., left, and Natalie Harding pin lieutenant stripes to the uniform of their son, Jack Jr. Photo courtesy of Jack Harding Sr.

Jack Harding Sr., left, and Natalie Harding pin lieutenant stripes to the uniform of their son, Jack Jr. Photo courtesy of Jack Harding Sr.

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant

The Hardings can thank multiple family members for their military service, including three generations of men named Jack.

Natalie and Jack Harding Sr. are SJSU staff members: She is the director of Academic Budgets, and he works on all of the campus telephone lines, as the telecommunications network analyst.

Their son, Jack Jr., graduated from SJSU in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy.

After completing internships, Jack Jr. thought about what to do with his post-college life. During that time, two people close to him died, including his grandmother.

“When she passed, it put things into perspective that basically I just needed to do it,” Jack Jr. said about joining the military.

Jack Jr. shocked his parents when he told them that he had enlisted in the Marines.

“We never really wanted him to join because of the war that was going on,” Jack Sr. said.

Jack Jr. said he knew joining the military during wars in Afghanistan and Iraq meant deployment. What was most important to him, though, was serving his country. Natalie says Jack Jr.’s grandmother influenced her son’s decision.

“My Lola had a huge impact on it,” Jack Jr. said of his grandmother. She would tell her grandson that he would make a good officer.

Jack Jr. was in Afghanistan for seven months. He recently earned the rank of captain.

The late matriarch and patriarch, Clara and Jack – affectionately known as Lola and Grandpa Jack – impacted their family’s attitudes and experiences with the military.

After all, the U.S. military brought together a poor boy from an Arkansas farm and a young girl from a wealthy Filipino family.

World War II and Its Aftermath

Jack Harding Sr.'s parents pose for their wedding portrait. Photo courtesy of Jack Harding Sr.

Jack Harding Sr.'s parents, Clara and Jack, pose for their wedding portrait. Photo courtesy of Jack Harding Sr.

Wanting to make a better life for himself, Grandpa Jack voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, predecessor for the Air Force. He would make a career out of his service, traveling to locations as diverse as the Pentagon and the Philippines.

It was in the Philippines where he met his future wife Clara, who worked at the United States’ Clark Air Field Base.

During World War II, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japan gained control of Clark Air Field Base. Clara and her family lived nearby in Angeles City, so they fled to the city of Bataan.

They thought the American forces were going to save them, but they never came, Jack Sr. said.

Instead, the Japanese captured Clara and her family, who became part of the 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war involved in the infamous Bataan Death March. Thousands died during the brutal return to the capital city, Manila.

To protect her daughters from being raped by soldiers, Clara’s mother put dirt on their faces and matted their hair to disguise their beauty – it worked.

Clara’s father was sent to a prison camp, where he would eventually die. A brother died in a siege at Corregidor Island in the Philippines.

During the United States’ Liberation of Manila in 1945, Clara and her remaining family lived in a bomb crater covered with tin. They were stuck in the middle of a fierce battle, and Clara lost another brother that night.

“Her brother was killed that night by an artillery shell,” Jack Sr. said. “He came outside of the hole to make sure they were going to be OK, I guess, and an artillery shell hit a tree he was sitting under and killed him.”

The next day, they heard a rumbling sound and popped out of the hole in the ground, only to be surrounded by — U.S. troops, who saved them.

“They scared the crap out of some poor, young G.I. because they were all dirty,” Jack Sr. said. “They looked like rats living in these holes.”

A couple years after the liberation, Clara met Grandpa Jack, stationed at nearby Clark AFB. They married and started a family.

Jack Sr. became emotional when thinking about his late mother and what she had been through during the war.

“She’s indebted to this country and the military because they saved her and her family,” he said, his voice breaking and his eyes teary. “That’s why she always encouraged my son and myself to join the military because of what they did.”

The 1970s and Beyond

Jack Harding Sr. sits in a jet. Harding served as a Navy jet mechanic. Photo courtesy of Jack Harding Sr.

Jack Harding Sr. served as a Navy jet mechanic. Photo courtesy of Jack Harding Sr.

After retiring from the military in 1973 as master sergeant, Grandpa Jack moved his wife and eight kids to San Jose. Jack Sr. said he didn’t do too well in school, so his mother suggested that he look into the military.

“Maybe they’ll straighten you up, and you’ll enjoy it,” she told him.

Jack Sr. actively served in the U.S. Navy as a jet mechanic from 1976 to 1980, and was in the reserves for eight years afterward.

He said he loved the experience, which gave him responsibilities and leadership training.

For the Hardings, Veterans Day is about family. Jack Sr.’s wife, Natalie, thinks of the sacrifices that families make for their loved ones who are serving.

For Jack Jr., he acknowledges his family at home and his fellow soldiers, “the family in your mind that you’re fighting for and the family next to you that you’re fighting with.” 

Jack Sr. expressed thanks to those who serve in the military.

“You know, my mom appreciated the American military ’til the very end, which she tried to instill in us, which she did and we all do,” Jack Sr. said. “All I can say is what these young men and women sacrifice for this country, life and limb, where would we be in this country without them?”

Student vets visit with Sammy the SJSU mascot outside their student activities fair both.

With “Books to Baghdad,” Student Veterans Help Iraqi Universities

Student vets visit with Sammy the SJSU mascot outside their student activities fair both.

"Books to Baghdad" is one of many new efforts involving student vets. The Veteran Students Organization is connecting with members at student organization fairs and online. A class to be offered for the first time this fall will focus on the transition to civilian life. SJSU also recently formed a Veterans/Military Students Task Force. Major General Anthony L. Jackson, an SJSU alumnus now among the highest ranking African Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke at commencement in May.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

This summer, Department of History Professor Jonathan Roth and student veterans teamed together to pack and mail 80 boxes of college textbooks to Iraq. The shipment, part of SJSU’s “Books to Baghdad” project, went to U.S. State Department Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Diyala and Basra. The teams will provide the materials to universities in those cities. Damian Bramlett, David Richardson and Mark Hanna, present or former members of SJSU’s Veteran Students Organization, have over the past several years boxed hundreds of books, all recent publications donated by professors and instructors. Since the boxes can be sent to an APO address in Iraq, domestic media rates apply, and postage is only about $15 a box.  While “Books to Baghdad” does not need more books, the group is asking for help covering the cost of future shipments. Please send checks to the Department of History, San Jose State University, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA, 95192-0117. Checks should be written to the Tower Foundation of SJSU, with “Books to Baghdad” in the memo line.

Student vets visit with Sammy the SJSU mascot outside their student activities fair both.

With "Books to Baghdad," Student Veterans Help Iraqi Universities

Student vets visit with Sammy the SJSU mascot outside their student activities fair both.

"Books to Baghdad" is one of many new efforts involving student vets. The Veteran Students Organization is connecting with members at student organization fairs and online. A class to be offered for the first time this fall will focus on the transition to civilian life. SJSU also recently formed a Veterans/Military Students Task Force. Major General Anthony L. Jackson, an SJSU alumnus now among the highest ranking African Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke at commencement in May.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

This summer, Department of History Professor Jonathan Roth and student veterans teamed together to pack and mail 80 boxes of college textbooks to Iraq. The shipment, part of SJSU’s “Books to Baghdad” project, went to U.S. State Department Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Diyala and Basra. The teams will provide the materials to universities in those cities. Damian Bramlett, David Richardson and Mark Hanna, present or former members of SJSU’s Veteran Students Organization, have over the past several years boxed hundreds of books, all recent publications donated by professors and instructors. Since the boxes can be sent to an APO address in Iraq, domestic media rates apply, and postage is only about $15 a box.  While “Books to Baghdad” does not need more books, the group is asking for help covering the cost of future shipments. Please send checks to the Department of History, San Jose State University, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA, 95192-0117. Checks should be written to the Tower Foundation of SJSU, with “Books to Baghdad” in the memo line.