Veterans host skills challenge at LIU Post
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As a Ke$ha remix blared in the background, Marine Corps veteran Dan Potenzieri coaxed the two young women tackling the obstacle course to "pull together."
Their feet perched against a wooden ramp, they struggled to pull up a heavy capsule filled with water. Seconds later, it sprang to the top. The women moved to the last hurdle, a sprint while being weighed down by sandbags.
Each task paid tribute to one of four Medal of Honor winners from New York, some of whom perished during the Vietnam War.
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The sprint, Potenzieri said, recognized Vincent Capodanno, a Staten Island native and Navy chaplain who was killed in Vietnam after running through an open, fiery area, administering last rites to the dying and attending to the wounded.
The Medal of Honor Challenge capped a weekend designed to raise the profile of military members on campus -- a group, officials say, that is growing as wars wind down and veterans return home.
Veterans and campus leaders see integrating veterans into various campus activities as key. It was Greek Week at LIU Post in Brookville, so fraternity brothers and sorority sisters dominated the competition.
"The veterans now are on campus, and now they're involved," said Adam Grohman, coordinator of veteran and military affairs at LIU Post. "Their footprint's getting bigger and bigger. Maybe," he added, "their bootprint."
Roughly 80 students on campus are veterans, and an additional 20 are beneficiaries of veterans, who Grohman said qualify for benefits from The Yellow Ribbon Program, in which private institutions offer subsidies that are matched by the federal government. Many credit the program for allowing service members to attend private schools, such as Post.
Michael Knauer, 36, a married father from Great Neck, enrolled at LIU Post after serving with the Coast Guard in Alaska and Florida for 10 years, until 2007. The Post senior said events such as the obstacle course and the college's first summit held Friday for veterans looking to enroll in college, ensures the legacy of his comrades stays visible.
"It brings all the civilian kids, the Greeks, and lets them know who we are," he said, as a crowd of nearly 100 readied for the obstacle course. The interaction is crucial, he said, lest the returning vets are viewed as a "burden."
"So nobody forgets who we are," he said, "and the American contract we signed when we raised our hands."