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Veterans standing in honor as the flag is raised during the flag raising ceremony on Veterans Day
  • 2019-10-28
  • Anthony Arnone

Faculty & Staff Veteran Spotlight

SUNY Brockport is home to 43 faculty and staff members who hold veteran status.

In honor of Veterans Day on November 11, 2019, learn about three College at Brockport faculty and staff veterans and their time serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Ya-Ling Chen Professional Headshot

Uletha Jones, Assistant Professor of Nursing

After spending 23 years in the United States Navy, Uletha Jones began teaching at Brockport and sharing her knowledge and experience with students.

Many people who join the armed forces know from a young age that they wish to serve their country. Uletha Jones had already graduated from the University of Rochester and was working at Strong Memorial Hospital when she had an encounter on her lunch break that would change her life.

“A Navy recruitment officer offered me a free trip to Washington to visit Bethesda,” Jones said. “After going on the tour and speaking to the military nurses, I knew I wanted to join, so I called back my recruiter and left my job shortly after.”

Jones began her service at Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1995 serving as a member of the Navy Nurse Corps. Bethesda, now known as the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, is one of the most prominent U.S. military medical centers near Washington DC, having served numerous presidents.

In 1998, Jones was deployed to Lithuania aboard the USNS Comfort, where she trained military medical personnel from multiple countries as a part of a NATO medical exercise. Presidents from the other countries involved visited their training ship to see the training facility, but her most memorable moment was an unexpected call from President Bill Clinton to her ship.

“A woman who lived nearby reached out to President Clinton about a tumor on her son’s neck that local doctors were not fit to deal with,” Jones said. “Clinton called our ship, and we had the kid evaluated and brought in for surgery. Within a few days, he made a complete recovery, and that has always stuck with me since it was our first true humanitarian mission.”

Jones later moved to Pensacola, FL, where she was on active reserve before she was recalled in 2011 to serve in Afghanistan. There, she spent six months stationed at the NATO Role 3 Trauma Hospital.

Jones returned to her home in Pensacola, where she immediately resumed her monthly training exercises despite a six-month reprieve offered to those returning from active duty. She was lucky she did, as her friends and colleagues noticed warning signs from her.

“After I returned, I found out I was suffering from PTSD,” Jones said. “I went to a VA clinic in Pensacola, and they were able to help me, but I am thankful for those that looked out for me.”

Jones now works in the Department of Nursing and maintains her military lifestyle by attending ROTC training once a week. Her role as the veteran engagement officer for the local chapter of Team Red, White, and Blue has played an important role since returning from service.

“After coming back, I felt isolated, and I went looking all over online for local veteran communities and chapters that I could be a part of,” Jones said. “We often get together for social gatherings such as Red Wings games and other social activities, and it has helped form a community.”

Kevin Rice, Director of the Physical Facilities Plant

Ya-Ling Chen Professional Headshot

Kevin Rice spent five years in the United States Marine Corps in order to fund the start of his 20-year experience in higher education.

Kevin Rice ’98 enlisted for the Marine Corps at the start of his senior year with his sights set on college after returning from service. Within weeks of graduation, he found himself at boot camp in the muggy swamplands of Paris Island, SC.

“It (boot camp) was the biggest shock of my life. They break you down and build you back up,” Rice said. “Coming from upstate New York, I was unprepared for the heat and climate of Paris Island, but I managed to make it through even though nearly half of us dropped out.”

Rice was assigned to the 1st Battalion 8th Marines and spent most of his day doing physical training, gun, and rifle training or learning common warfare tactics. In July 1983, he was deployed to Beirut, Lebanon, where he was part of a military peacekeeping effort during the Lebanese Civil War. In late October, his battalion was attacked, which was later known as the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings.

Rice was transferred to a marine barracks in England in 1984, where he spent the final three years of his service traveling around Europe on guard duty and weapons security.

“I was able to spend my last three and a half years traveling to countries like Spain, England, and Scotland,” Rice said. “We were allowed to explore and wander the cities after our shifts, and I was able to experience a handful of different cultures and beautiful cities.”

When Rice finally returned from active duty, he was unsure about what to do next. He had joined the military for a college education, but the economy was now in a rough spot. Rice attended Corning Community College, where he earned his associate’s degree in nursing because of a high demand for nurses.

Rice met his wife in college and started a family, which led to his life-changing experience with higher education.

“The thing that I am most proud of in my life was my 20-year experience in higher education,” Rice said. “Throughout that time, I managed to balance a full-time job and a family while pursuing an education.”

Rice attributed his passion for learning to the time that he spent in the marines, as it helped him understand the value of education. While he said he was an average student in high school, he learned to appreciate the opportunity to earn a college education.

“I know a lot of people regret their service, but looking back on it, I am glad I did it,” Rice said. “It prepared me to handle all of the tough situations that life throws at you. There were so many times in college where I wanted to give up or I questioned why I was still doing this, but I still managed to push through it.”

Laura Chapman, Secretary 1 in the Department of Mathematics

Laura Chapman spent four years serving in the United States Armed Forces, where she met her husband and started a family.

Some people are destined to serve long before they are aware of it. Laura Chapman ’91 wanted to serve since she was 12 years old, but her grandmother saw it in her long before that.

“She always talked about how I would wear uniforms, specifically Navy uniforms, and that I was often out playing war games with the boys instead of hanging out with girls my age,” Chapman said.

Chapman enlisted in the Air Force after graduating high school and began serving in 1974. She flew through her boot camp and tech school training, finishing a 12-week course in just three weeks. She was transferred to Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, VA, where she served as the administrative specialist with the First Combat Support Group/Security Police, monitoring and granting security clearances for over 30,000 personnel.

A year into Chapman’s service, the women’s barracks received a bomb threat from an anti-war group. The surrounding barracks had to evacuate, which led to a chance encounter that would change her life.

“While waiting outside, I was talking to a friend from the nearby men’s barracks before it started to rain,” Chapman said. “This guy who had just gotten off his shift at 7 am asked me if I would like to go to breakfast with him and get out of the rain. Six months later, we were married.”

Chapman’s supervisor gave her Christmas off with one condition: they finally get married. The wedding was anything but usual, as they both struggled to find a time where they were free. Only her mother and sisters were able to make it to the wedding in time, and at the last second, the best man was called back to duty.

“We only had two hours left until the ceremony, and now we didn’t have a best man,” Chapman said. “My husband jokingly mentioned that my sister was going to have to step in and do it, so she did.”

Chapman would later have her first child while still serving at Langley before her service ended. Her family moved to upstate New York, where she earned both her bachelor's and master’s degrees in teacher education at the College. She spent 14 years substitute teaching in the Rochester area before returning to Brockport as a secretary for the Department of Mathematics.

Chapman is still heavily ingrained with the military, as her son is now a member of the armed forces. She and her husband are members of the American Legion and often attend dances and other social gatherings with local veterans.

Celebrate and support veterans at the College's Veterans Day 5K.

Walk, run, or roll in the College’s 8th Annual Veterans Day 5K on November 2 at 9 am, which supports local veterans and the Gary Beikirch Military Service Scholarship. This $500 scholarship is annually awarded to two students who are either in active-duty service or a veteran. You can also support the scholarship through a basket raffle spanning November 4–8 in the Seymour College Union Main Lounge, which culminates with the annual Flag Raising Ceremony at 11:15 am in the Campus Mall and a reveal of the raffle winners.

Last Updated 7/29/21

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