SMCC and USM join in honoring veterans at appreciation breakfast

Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) and the University of Southern Maine (USM) joined in honoring veterans at the 5th SMCC/USM Veterans Appreciation Breakfast.

Attendees of the November 10 event in the Culinary Arts dining room were treated to a fantastic breakfast prepared by student volunteers from SMCC’s Culinary Arts program before hearing from SMCC President Joe Cassidy, USM President Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson along with keynote speakers Trevor Engling and Curtis Johnson. Engling and Johnson attended both SMCC and USM. Other speakers included Amy Lainoff, Director of Veterans and Military Student Services at SMCC; Lorrie Spaulding, Director of Veteran Services at USM; and Camden Ege, Assistant Director of Veteran Services at USM.

Cassidy reminded the crowd about the importance of always recognizing the contributions of veterans.

“It’s very poignant to me that we have an election this week, and it’s the same week we celebrate our veterans. It’s the freedom that we enjoy that is born on the backs of the men and women who have served our country for hundreds of years,” Cassidy said. “But it’s not just the thank you for the time you’ve given in the past. It’s a thank you for what you do for our organizations and our families in the present.”

Engling, a US Navy veteran and former SMCC/USM student, is currently the Graduate Assistant of Veteran Affairs at USM. Engling stressed the importance of communication in the veterans’ journey through education.

“Groups like the Veteran Services Department and local vet centers just the want to assist those that have served or are serving,” Engling said. “If you are struggling, please talk to someone, whether it be a professional in one of our departments or one of the many entities designed to help us. Community is key.”

Johnson, a Navy veteran, a 2017 SMCC grad and a 2019 USM grad, echoed Engling’s message about community.

“I went from private to an NCO in two and a half years. I was a brigade chaplain assistant. And it just all kind of really took off because I felt like I had a community who was backing me,” Johnson said. “When I got out of the military and came to SMCC, I felt like I had a community again.”

The event ended with a lovely moment as Amy Lainoff took photos of the veterans holding letters written to them from a 1st-grade class at Martin Avenue School in North Bellmore, New York. Lainoff’s friend at the school wanted to share some joy and help young children recognize the vets.

If you want more information about SMCC’s Veteran Services, please visit our website.