The University of New Hampshire’s 2019 Salute to Service on Sunday included a VA VetTalkX live stream, Manchester VA resource fair and UNH men’s hockey game.
The VetTalkX program showcased the talents of UNH students and alumni who are veterans.
Alumnus Mike Galgano served in the U.S. Navy from 2008 to 2014. “I just felt this (VetTalkX at UNH) would be a good place for me to connect and a great opportunity to get my story out so other veterans would feel comfortable working with me,” said Galgano, a Veterans Service Officer with the State Office of Veterans Services.
Beth Ann Fisher served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1997 to 2006 and in the Reserve from 2006 to 2018 and is now retired.
Today, she is studying at UNH; she recently developed Fit to Garden, an accessible gardening program for the elderly. “When I was a child my dad always said, ‘You could be a pilot someday.’ I was hooked after a helicopter ride as an ROTC member in Pensacola,” she said.
Her father has since passed away but he was with her when she got her Wings of Gold. “He was the proudest father and even joined me on a Tiger Cruise,” she said.
Benjamin Kaler, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is a field officer with the VA’s Veterans Experience Office. “VetTalkX is a TEDx-style platform designed to break down the stigmas and showcase veterans as civic members; our goal is to share their stories as a way of changing the narrative,” he said.
Karen Gilbert served in the U.S. Air Force and is today director of UNH’s Military & Veteran Services office. She works with U.S. Marine Corps veteran Penny Watson and U.S. Army veteran Jessica Willis. They work with students who are veterans, aiming to help them in their academic endeavors by connecting them with tools for success. The office partners with the VA and the state in efforts to ensure these students are supportedthroughout their education experience.
The partnership with the Manchester VA allows the VA to engage with new students and continue the relationships from there.
“Rolling out the VA VetTalkX program enhances the relationship between UNH and VA and really elevates it to the next level,” said UNH ROTC alumnus and U.S. Army veteran Kevin Forrest, interim director at the medical center.
The Manchester VA outreach team was on-hand during the VA resource fair, sharing information on benefits and services.
“They didn’t have many of these programs when I was a student,” Forrest said.
“Today, there is a wealth of services — local, state and federal. Our job in partnership with UNH’s veteran and military service office is to help connect veterans with experts who will assist them in maximizing their earned benefits.”
The “icing on the arena” for the day may have been the smiles on the faces of vets from the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton who came to enjoy the UNH men’s hockey game as guests of UNH’s MVS office.
These vets were honored and celebrated. World War II vets Anthony Nigro, 99, and Walter Pierce, 100, were bundled up for the occasion.
The day was topped off with UNH’s 3-1 win over UMass.
Those who would like to have the Manchester VA at their outreach events should contact Mike Bichrest at 624-4366, ext. 2830.