Esperanza Correa speaks to a room full of veterans during the recognition ceremony. Alex Delaney-Gesing | The Collegian

Esperanza Correa speaks to a room full of veterans during the recognition ceremony. Alex Delaney-Gesing | The Collegian

Karl Schneider

Esperanza Correa had one of the most dangerous jobs in the military. Working on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz, her office was three football fields long and she loved every second of it. As the only female on the flight deck, she worked ten times harder than everyone else, eventually being promoted to Petty Officer.

“My whole life I knew I wanted to protect and serve. I knew this is what I wanted to do from the very beginning,” she said.

After seven years in the Navy, Correa’s mother was diagnosed with a terminal cancer and she left the navy.

“I wasn’t expecting the not-so-smooth landing of coming back to civilian life,” said Correa, a social work major currently working towards her degree at Lorain County Community College through Youngstown State University.

She struggled with being recognized of what she was truly capable of. One thing Correa learned in boot camp was that life makes you stronger, and that’s how she began her progress towards the civilian life; by enrolling at LCCC.

The school recognized veterans like Correa with a Veterans Recognition ceremony on Nov. 11 in the College Commons on campus.

“We all owe them a tremendous amount of gratitude,” said Dr. Roy Church, president of LCCC. “We need to take our efforts to support and honor them.”

Church spoke on the growing efforts that the college is providing to veterans returning to the world of academia. By instituting special initiatives and expanding and streamlining the veteran transfer process, LCCC has made it to the top 15 percent of nationally recognized Military Friendly Schools.

“From 2010 to 2013, the number of veterans at our school has increased by 112 percent for the post 9/11 GI bill,” Church proclaimed.

Also speaking at the event were Dr. Bruce Weigl, faculty liaison for Veteran Services and distinguished professor and Garis Distelhorst, LCCC Foundation director.

“A long time ago I fought in the war and it changed my life forever… I returned from that war confused and doubtful about my future,” Weigl said.

An LCCC alum and Vietnam veteran, Weigl recognized the long history of veteran support the college has provided.

“I’ve received essential support from my time on this campus 45 years ago, that’s how long we’ve been helping veterans,” he said.

Also a veteran, Distelhorst was an Air Force officer after completing four years of ROTC at Ohio State University. “Military service demands a certain amount of sacrifice,” he said.

Along with administrative and educational progress, the college has given special priority to the need for veterans to come together and have a place to be themselves.

“We’ve recognized a need to dedicate a space for vets and their academic goals,” said Church.

The Veterans Lounge provides a civilian free area for vets to gather and bond over the trials, triumphs and achievements of academic life. LCCC’s student Veterans Club president, Michael Weston, a Marine Corps. veteran who served four years, cut a ceremonial ribbon marking the opening of the lounge. First Merit bank gave the school a $10k grant for the lounge.

“This lounge brings a little bit of that.. the comradery, people who understand me, who speak my language,” Correa said. “I can go into that lounge and be me.”

“This lounge allows you to be you; it’s a home once again.”