SMCC pays tribute to veterans with appreciation breakfast

Navy Seal veteran Chris Tyll delivers an inspirational speech at the SMCC-USM Veterans Breakfast.

Southern Maine Community College paid tribute to veterans at an annual appreciation breakfast attended by veterans from both SMCC and the University of Southern Maine.

This was the second straight year that SMCC and USM have teamed up to put on the Veterans Day Breakfast. The November 6 event in the Culinary Arts dining room drew about 50 people, who heard from SMCC President Joe Cassidy, USM President Glenn Cummings, and keynote speaker Chris Tyll, a Navy Seal veteran. Also speaking were Amy Lainoff, the VA Certifying Official at SMCC; Lorrie Spaulding; the VA Certifying Official at USM; and Camden Ege, director at the Maine State Approving Agency for Veterans Education Programs.

Cassidy told the crowd that veterans’ maturity, life experiences and leadership skills make the College a better place.

“I thank you for what you bring to our communities at SMCC and USM,” Cassidy said.

Tyll, a local business owner who served in the Navy for 13 years, said it’s important for veterans to continue giving back to their communities when they leave the military.

“You’re a veteran and it’s a chapter in your life, not the whole book,” he said.

SMCC in any given year certifies about 300 veterans and dependents who come to the College using veterans benefits earned through their service.

Among the students at the breakfast was Marcus Taylor, who came to SMCC last spring and is enrolled in the Communications and New Media Studies program. After serving in the Army for eight years, Taylor first attended a college in Virginia.

When he later moved to Maine, Taylor decided to continue his education at SMCC and has been impressed with the support it shows its veterans, from veterans-only orientations to events such as the appreciation breakfast.

Taylor serves as president of the Student Veterans Organization, and he has a seat on the Student Senate so he can make sure that veterans have a voice on campus.

“The veterans program at SMCC is leagues better than the last college I went to,” he said. “It’s fantastic.”