Veteran’s Day Celebration at Cal Lutheran: ‘Every Veteran Has A Story’:


Ulises Koyoc

Sgt. Davila Rogger, Staff Sgt. Stephen Miller, Sgt. Francisco Gama, Sgt. Loya Alvin of the Color Guard Weapons Company prepare to march for the National Anthem during a veteran’s celebration at California Lutheran University.

Ulises Koyoc, Reporter

On Monday, Nov. 11 California Lutheran University hosted a Veterans Day Celebration in Kingsmen Park, sponsored by the Veteran Resource Center. The event included a keynote speaker, food and a military color guard, all to honor the university’s veteran community. 

Gregory Freeland, a political science professor and the chair of the Veterans Day Committee, said hosting the celebration meant a lot to him because he is a veteran. Having served in South Korea, Freeland said it is important to recognize the sacrifices veterans give in serving their country. 

“We’ve had smaller recognition events in the past, but we decided… that this [Veterans Day celebration] should be more formal,” Freeland said. “I certainly appreciate it being recognized and I feel good to be apart of the process.” 

One of the main elements of the celebration was keynote speaker Rear Admiral Eugene Fussell. Fussell is a retired U.S. Navy veteran who served for almost four decades. Besides his military honors including the Legion of Merit, Armed Forces Reserve Medal and the National Defense Medal, Fussell has areceived personal civilian awards like the Citizen of the Year from the City of Oxnard.

“I am proud to be an American and also a veteran,” Fussell said. “Being a veteran validates what it means to be an American.”

Eugene Fussell (left) shakes the hand of Gregory Freeland, a political science professor at California Lutheran University. Fussell was a keynote speaker during Cal Lutheran’s veteran celebration. Both Fussell and Freeland are veterans who shared on the importance of having an event dedicated to veterans

During his speech, Fussell shared a story about how during his time in the Navy he was willing to give up his life to protect America, but found it perplexing how difficult it was for him to find housing as an African American when he returned home. Experiencing segregation was an important part of Fussell’s life that shaped his views after retiring from the Navy.

“Every veteran has a story,” Fussell said. “I am from the school that cried for not having any shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” 

In addition to sharing his personal story, Fussull said it was important for him to discuss the lives of veterans he has met over the years. Fussell touched on mental health issues veterans endure when coming home, saying it is difficult to know who is a veteran when they look like normal civilians, but that does not mean healthy-looking veterans do not suffer from mental instability. This is an important issue that at times goes unrecognized, Fussell said.

Member of the Veterans Day Committee Kelvin Loh is a former professor at Cal Lutheran. Loh said he has known Fussell for about 30 to 40 years, and that Fussell is his boss at Saint John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. 

“Eugene [Fussell] is a great leader,” Loh said. “He rose to his position in the Navy.” 

Xavier Reynoso, a sophomore studying biology and theater, said he stayed for the celebration because he found Fussell and his stories compelling. Reynoso said his grandfather was a veteran, but that he personally feels disconnected from Veterans Day. 

Fussell touched on the variety of disconnect described by Reynoso after his speech. Fussell believes understanding the stories of veterans and war is a crucial factor for history not repeating itself. 

“If you don’t know where you came from, then you don’t know where you are going,” Fussell said.