Extraordinary Stories of Courage Dominate the Annual Veterans Celebration

Office of Communications | Tue Nov 20, 2018

UMass Boston Celebrates Veterans Community, Presents Scholarships and Awards at its Annual Celebration of Service

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act in spite of it,” Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts reminded his fellow veterans and their guests during his keynote address at UMass Boston’s annual Celebration of Service event aboard the Spirit of Boston cruise ship. 

Over 200 people attended the event on November 10, held every year around the Veterans Day holiday to honor the service of the many student, faculty, staff, and alumni veterans on campus, veterans in the community, and their families.

Gold Star families on the Celebration of Service Veterans Cruise

Caption: Gold Star families on the Celebration of Service veterans cruise

United States Army Staff Sergeant Pitts, who served his country from 2003-2009 and was deployed twice to Afghanistan, shared moving stories of remarkable bravery by his nine Army “brothers” who all lost their lives in a bloody battle and saved his life on July 13, 2008.

Because one of the men applied a tourniquet to Pitts’ wounded leg, and because the medics and a helicopter crew risked their lives under enemy fire to rescue him, he is alive today. 

“Even after enemy fire struck him in the helmet, he got up and manned his machine gun again until he got killed,” Pitts said, describing the courage of his machine gun operator that day.

Kyran Kennedy Memorial Scholarship recipients Katharine Fanara and Anthony Martin with the Kennedy family members and Katherine’s husband, Matthew.

Caption: Kyran Kennedy Memorial Scholarship recipients Katharine Fanara (center) and Anthony Martin (second from left) with the Kennedy family members and Katherine’s husband, Matthew

The university awarded five scholarships to students at the event: two Kyran Kennedy Memorial Scholarships, one Carron Family Scholarship, and two Arredondo Brothers Memorial Scholarships.

Award of Excellence recipient Albert Man and his mother

Caption: Award of Excellence recipient Albert Man and his mother

The university honored Captain Albert Man with the William Joiner Award for Excellence.

 “Not all heroes are tall and wear capes. My mother is only 5 feet tall and she is a hero,” said Man, who is on his way to becoming a major.

With great emotion, Man told the story of his mother bravely escaping Mainland China on foot and swimming for miles to Hong Kong in shark infested waters. She survived the harrowing experience, but hundreds of others did not. “When she saw the lights of Hong Kong, she saw freedom,” he said.

He encouraged his fellow veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to not give up, using the story of his mother’s heroism and perseverance in the face of death to give hope to others.

Theodore Parker Award recipient Ron Armstead

Caption: Theodore Parker Award recipient Ron Armstead

Ron E. Armstead, the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust, received the Theodore Parker Award for Outstanding Service to the Veteran Community. During the Vietnam War, Armstead was a medic who cared for the wounded when they returned from the battlefield.  He has dedicated his life to serving veterans dealing with the invisible wounds of war, counseling families on why their sons and daughters are “not the same” when they return from their service and re-enter civilian life.

Long-time College of Science and Mathematics professor William Hagar received an appreciation award. He remarked on how much he enjoyed teaching at UMass Boston because it is a welcoming environment for veterans, saying that one-third of his classes were comprised of veterans.

Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Lisa Johnson accepted the Distinguished Alumnus Award in absentia for Anne L. Riley ’11.

Johnson also delivered the opening and closing remarks, recognizing all veterans for their service and thanking the three veterans who staff the Office of Veterans Affairs at UMass Boston: Gus St. Silva, Lovelle Seymore, and Chris Clement. She also acknowledged Sean Cleary, who manages events in Enrollment Management.

The Arredondo Brothers Memorial Scholarship recipient Victoria Lewis surrounded by Arredondo Foundation members

Caption: The Arredondo Brothers Memorial Scholarship recipient Victoria Lewis surrounded by Arredondo Foundation members

The Office of Veterans Affairs serves the 721 student veterans enrolled at UMass Boston, many of whom are nontraditional or first-generation college students. UMass Boston was named to Victory Media Inc.’s Military Friendly Schools® list earlier this year — the fifth time that the university has been named to the list.

The Division of Enrollment Management and Office of Veterans Affairs sponsored the event.