CSUSM receives gifts for student veterans


Command Master Chief German Lira, President Karen Haynes, and Vice President of the Student Veteran Organization Stephen Walker On Thursday Nov. 9th during U hour on Veterans Observance Day presenting the actual certificate of commissioning of the USS Rafael Peralta.

Stephany Mejia, News Editor

On Nov. 9 the Veteran’s Center hosted Veteran’s Day Observance. Students, faculty, staff and veterans of all ages attended the event.

Vice President of the Student Veteran Organization Stephen Walker presented Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Ixchel Perez who began the ceremony by singing the national anthem.

President Karen Haynes said, “our commitment to our nation’s military is an integral part of this university’s mission. To serve diverse populations of our region and often some of the most underrepresented populations in higher education.”

The Veteran’s Center opened in 2014. Haynes said there has been a 200 percent increase in military-connected students.

The Epstein Family Foundation has gifted the Veterans Center with $1 million. The money will be used to expand the Veteran’s Center twice its size and will be completed by the end of 2018. The project will include a larger lounge, computer labs and four more offices. The CSU Board of Trustees has confirmed the gift as a “naming opportunity” for CSUSM. The gift will also help support student veteran scholarships.

Seven student veterans received scholarships from the Bill and Suzanne Loeber Foundation.

The Loeber’s married in July and asked their guests to donate to a CSUSM veteran scholarship instead of giving wedding gifts, said Haynes.

Haynes said, the Veterans to Energy Center Program application has been approved by the Office of Naval Research. The grant of $1 million for three years will be given totowards the Office of Naval Research workforce development program for students to work in paid internships with Department of Defense scientist and engineers.  

Walker presented California representative of the 67th Assembly District Melissa Melendez. Melendez joined the Navy after graduating from high school. She became fluent in Russian during her time at Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. During her 10 years of service, she was a Russian translator during the Cold War.

Melendez said, “When someone says to you ‘Thank you for your service,’ most of them are blissfully unaware of what that really means, but they mean it from their heart.”

Walker introduced United States Ship (USS) Rafael Peralta Command Master Chief, German Lira. Lira was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and raised in Los Angeles. Lira joined the Navy in 1993 and has been deployed twice to Iraq. He said Sergeant Rafael Peralta was someone who he could relate with.

Peralta was born in Mexico City and joined the Marine Corps after becoming a U.S. citizen. He passed away in 2004 by absorbing the explosion of a grenade thrown by an insurgent saving the lives of about four marines.

In 2012, the Navy decided to honor Peralta by naming a ship after him. The Peralta family has a close relationship with the Navy.

“We are not perfect as a country, but I have great confidence we will overcome any challenges that will come up our way, no matter how small or how large,” said Lira.

The ceremony ended by presenting the actual certificate of commissioning of the USS Rafael Peralta to CSUSM.