Saluting Veterans


Saluting Veterans

 By: Mary York and Albert Fulcher, News Editor and Editor-in-chief

Published: Monday, November 21st, 2011 at 9:57 pm


Departing from the traditional pomp and circumstance of military ceremony, Southwestern College’s Veterans Day celebration was humble, heartwarming and honorable.
Interim Superintendent Denise Whittaker declared Thursday, November 10, 2011 a day of memorial in honor of those served in the United States Armed Forces. Held at Veteran’s Glen, the college community gathered in remembrance of those who serve our country and those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
Former Governing Board Trustee Nick Aguilar said he was very honored to be a part of the ceremony and grateful for all who showed up to pay respect to veterans past, old and new.
“I want to thank Southwestern College for supporting the veterans enrolled at the college to transition from the combat environment and combat mentality to a civilian higher education,” he said.
Aguilar said today’s veterans are fighting every day all over the world, exposed to elements not seen in his days in the Vietnam and prior wars. He called it a war with no boundaries, no safety zones and attacks that leave service members dead or maimed for life.
“They will need assistance for the rest of their lives and their families will need assistance also,” he said.
Student Veteran Organization President Shawn Buckingham and former president David Bonafede presented Aguilar with a plaque and shadowbox in recognition of his service to his country and college veterans.
“Sergeant Nick Aguilar, there are not enough plaques, there are not enough shadowboxes or nothing we can say to sum up what you have done for our community, our veterans, the Student Veteran Organization and your service here,” said Buckingham.
Jim Jones, veterans’ services specialist, said it was an honor to have two distinguished guests at the ceremony, Frank Wada and Mas Tsuida. Volunteers of the U.S. Army’s 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, Wada and Tsuida were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal as veterans of Japanese descent serving during World War II. Japanese descent soldiers served while more than 120,000 of their family and friends were interned in 10 relocation camps. The 442nd is the most highly-decorated unit in American history for its size and length of service.
“Thank you very much for your uncommon bravery and valor and your loyalty to a nation that initially treated you with mistrust and unfair incarceration,” said Jones.
Aguilar’s comrades from the 82nd Air¬borne Division and Association Color Guard presented the Colors and Joseph Molina, a member of the SWC choir, sang the national anthem. Dr. Terry Russell, conducted the SWC Concert Choir and Chamber Singers as they performed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Following special messages from Aguilar and Whittaker, Jones laid the wreath on the veterans’ memorial as “Taps” was played by Norman Rains and Mario Eguia.
As the ceremony came to a close, those present placed red carnations next to the ceremonial wreath on the monument, laying them down in memory of those who laid down their lives. 



Kidney Donor Starts Chain Reaction of Life


The Human Chord

Kidney donor starts chain reaction of life

By: Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Monday, November 21st, 2011 at 7:29 pm


Nancy Curtis, Lorena Rodriquez, Monique McCray and Ria Curtis


Selflessly, she gave the gift of life. Expecting nothing in return, she gained more than she could imagine. She also forged friendships to last a lifetime.

Working with patients on dialysis for 25 years, Lorena C. Rodriquez decided she could live without one of her healthy kidneys and became a donor. A medical assistant at Balboa Nephrology Medical Group Kidney Disease, Dialysis and Transplantation, Rodriquez contemplated this decision more than two years. Her goal was to get one person off the life-consuming grind of dialysis and off the organ transplant list. In April she gave her gift, but instead of elevating one life, she set in motion a chain of kidney transplants that changed three lives from Chula Vista to New York.

“It was because of my patients,” she said. “Where I work, many of them die, they became my family. They are like my parents, grandfather and friends. It is very sad when I see them go away. It does not matter to me who gets my kidney, as long as they need it.”

On the day of the operation, a wisp of a woman came running through the waiting room door, crying, laughing and hugging Lorena’s family and friends. With touching praises to God, she told everyone how grateful she was for Lorena’s gift of life.

“I am just so happy and full of God’s love,” said Nancy Curtis. “I have both my granddaughter Monique and my daughter Ria undergoing surgery right now. I am blessed and I love you for supporting your sister. She is saving my granddaughter’s life.”

A retired nurse in her 90s, Curtis took care of her granddaughter Monique McCray on dialysis for 14 months. McCray’s kidneys failed due to a complicated pregnancy with twins. With severe pre-eclampsia, she lost her first baby a few days before delivery of her “miracle baby,” a14-ounce daughter, born at 26 weeks. By December 2009 her kidneys failed. She said it was a blessing to find a donor so quickly when so many patients wait for years.

McCray called Rodriguez a “superstar” and told her how she could not wait to do all the things she could not do before. She said she now feels she can watch her daughter go to school, graduate and have children of her own.

“Lorena is part of my family now, she is a blessing,” said McCray. “I am so thankful for her. I can start thinking about the longevity of my life now. I have the opportunity of a new kidney and I am going to take care of it so I can live to see my daughter grow.”

Rodriguez said to her surprise, very few people are willing to donate kidneys unless it is for a family member. She hopes her example can change that. Our world needs more “altruistic donors”—no strings attached—to meet the demand for healthy kidneys.

“I am hoping people seeing me do this will understand it is safe to do and more people will become altruistic donors,” said Lorena. “We live in a culture where there is a reason for everything. Some things in life have no reason and people just do things because of who they are.”

In dealing with doubts of family and friends, the most difficult was trying to explain why she decided to be an altruistic kidney donor. She said she finally stopped trying to justify her actions and began asking questions herself.

“Why aren’t you doing this?” she said. “Inspiring people is what I am hoping to do. To let them know it is safe to donate a kidney. Give them extra life.”

Just a phone call away and two exits down Interstate 805, Lorena and Monique share more than a kidney. All because of an altruistic act of a single donor that believes in paying it forward. And the chain continues.


Veterans Ceremony November 2011 Southwestern College, Chula Vista, Calif..wmv

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Our government has not served its working people

The Human Chord

Our government has not served its working people

By: Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Monday, November 7th, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I am in the 99 percent. A member of the majority tired of large corporations running wild at the expense of the American people. It is not a surprise to see the spontaneous Occupy movement, racing its way across the nation like a Santa Ana wildfire. Still in its infancy and growing stronger every day, the real question is whether it will last or fizzle as people get tired and move on to something else. With so many people out of work, starving and losing homes, fizzling out is not likely.

As it gains momentum, Occupy is finally getting a semblance of leadership and defined goals backed by legions of people disgusted over the way our country is run and the boundless greed of the powerful and wealthy.

Large banks and corporations have left middle class Americans on the brink of poverty. Daily lives are now dictated by the ups and downs of stock markets, crude oil prices and gold markets. How and what we feed our families depends on the whims of Wall Street. Unemployment is at a 40-year high as corporations sweep up billions in profits and cast aside loyal workers. Average citizens suffer the repercussions of reckless investments, a crumbling housing market, crushing the hopes of students trying to earn an education to ensure a better future. Tuition increased and spots for students in public universities shrunk as our government cuts education funding to balance collapsing budgets wrecked by Wall Street and our nation’s gluttonous banks. More than 670,000 would-be California community college students have been locked out. This does not bode well for the economic health of our state.

Too many politicians are ignorant of the impacts on Main Street as they serve Wall Street. Getting an education today is as competitive as searching for a job. Even our best students cannot get into our region’s state university. It is taking students twice as long to get in and out of college as budgets shrank and classes disappear. Students are left with very few often-inferior choices. Private universities cost twice that of public schools, and both options bury students under mountains of debt before they even have a chance to begin a career.

Supplicant elected officials, with their special earmarked projects and support of corporate giants who buy their own private Congress are not sitting well with the American people.

As we enter 2012 elections, politicians better start listening to the meager 99 percent. We are the core fuel that can reboot the economy by becoming educated and becoming productive citizens. Democrats and Republicans alike are in trouble and have a lot to prove to their own constituents, a pissed off people who demand a change in how things are happening in the world.

Promises mean nothing when high-speed transit systems and corporate hijinx all the way down to SWC’s own Prop. R projects take precedence over the needs of the students and unemployed struggling to make in through this recession alive.

Occupy has the potential to become one of the greatest grassroots movements in decades. It would not be the first time We The People united and created a cascade of events to change the face of America. The Civil Rights Movement and sexual revolution of the 1960s brought permanent change to the face of America. Now, with wealth concentrating in the hands of a few at the expense of hundreds of millions, the 99ers are starting to get angry.

A sleeping dragon has awakened. We will be scrutinizing every movement and dollar elected officials decide upon as they race to gain control of our nation. People demand to be heard. If you are in the 99 percent, let all your elected officials know. Government sees us as Lilliputians to be kicked around, but remember the story—it was their sheer numbers that took down the giant.

Veterans Deserve Our Respect

Veterans Deserve Our Respect

 By: Sun Staff

Published: Monday, November 7th, 2011 at 8:44 pm

America’s service members are the guardians of our freedom and the forces for hope around the world. America’s military is one of the world’s most diverse organizations thanks to President Harry Truman’s 1946 decree to integrate the armed forces.

United under one flag for 235 years, this nation’s armed services has taken men and women from every small town and large city in America to protect our borders and defend freedom. Working, fighting, building and dying side by side, this multicultural community fights for freedom and defends the weak and oppressed of the world.

What we do for them—or do not do—is both generous and appalling. Last year Congress passed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a great piece of legislation that replaces the weak and miserly Korea and Vietnam-era veterans programs. Like the great World War II GI Bill, the new plan will help veterans attend college and buy homes.

Yet too many vets fall through the cracks. Unemployment for young San Diego veterans is nearly 30 percent and the same group has America’s highest rate of suicide. Too many mentally scarred and disabled vets live in poverty and isolation. This is an intolerable situation in a country as great as ours.

As World War II veterans are steadily departing this world, younger veterans now represent the legacy of the reintegration of armed services personnel into American society. We largely failed a generation of vets and without some serious soul-searching we are poised to fail again.

Since 2001 more than 6,200 service members are dead from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Most of the men and women who have died are between the ages of 20-24. More than 500 Californians have died and 3,000 have been wounded in service of this country in the last 10 years alone. More than 200,000 homeless veterans are living on the nation’s streets and under the nation’s bridges.

Brace yourself, Southwestern, because a battalion of veterans is headed this way. They will require patience, dedication and understanding. We need to consider their experiences and their needs. A loud cafeteria can be a bloodcurdling experience for someone with post-traumatic stress disorder. Even at the same age, it is difficult for a veteran to relate to someone who has never left home or seen war and death. Atrocities of war follow anyone who has seen its horror.

Many veterans on campus, in classrooms, out in the community and living in our neighborhoods are struggling just to get through the day. Many came back from war with injuries that changed their lives forever and need help finding their way back home.

Wounded service members are wondering how they can live the rest of their lives with having lost limbs, brain injuries and PTSD. SWC has to help them answer those questions with effective programs, proper facilities and trained staff.

With the Post-9/11 GI Bill many of these young service members have a chance to train for a new life, a new career and a new beginning. The campus is filled with veterans young and old, and many more are on their way as the nation withdraws troops and the wounded numbers increase. Tens of thousands are coming back through San Diego bases and many will make a home here. Southwestern is an emerging gateway for veterans transitioning back into the community.

SWC Veteran Affairs and the Student Veteran Organization has made great strides helping veterans on campus and in the community, teaming up with SDSU and other institutions of higher education. SWC is already considered one of America’s best colleges for veterans, thanks to leadership by Jim Jones and his colleagues in the Veterans Center. This college has modeled the creed “No man left behind,” and SWC veterans and volunteers work diligently to create a safe, welcoming and diverse environment for any service member or veteran to learn and find their way back into society. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels. It is a difficult transition coming home after life in the armed services, in peacetime, exponentially more so during times of war.

There is much work to do here and Southwestern has the heart, courage and diversity to tackle the job. Bad economic times cannot be an excuse. Too many of us will be watching.

The editorial board of the Southwestern College Sun strongly endorses the idea of building a dedicated Veterans Center on the corner lot. We need to create a space for veterans to come together, a sanctuary to get away when the normal bustle of the college is too much. Veterans find comfort in other veterans. A veteran walking into a room of other veterans can find an instant connection and comfort. It is a bond that transcends rank, branch of service, tour of duty, peacetime or war.

Specialized counselors can help veterans through the culture shock they face as they transition into a new beginning.

Make Southwestern College a safe haven and a path to a brighter future for every veteran in our community. They have served their country in war. With hope, education and encouragement, they will continue to serve our country in peace.

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