Honoring Veterans Day and OU's PAVE Program
Veterans Day – recognized each year on Nov. 11 – commemorates the heroism of those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. On this day, Americans pay tribute to those who have sacrificed time, energy, safety and even their lives to protect our country in pursuit of a better tomorrow.
For OU student veterans like Dan Nyagol and Brandon Hovis, as well as active duty member Brooke Pemberton, Veterans Day holds a special place in their lives, demonstrated through their commitment to the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education Program (PAVE).
The OU PAVE chapter was established in fall 2019 and is one of 42 PAVE programs on college campuses nationwide.
Originally developed at the University of Michigan, PAVE is designed to assist incoming student veterans as they make the transition from active duty to college, as well as support them by identifying challenges that may arise and referring them to proper resources on or off campus.
“It’s an important program to have at universities because PAVE allows student veterans to connect with each other,” Hovis said. “We go through similar experiences no matter what branch we’re in. It’s like a bond of camaraderie.”
Hovis spent eight years in the Army before returning to OU in 2018 to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. As a co-team leader for PAVE, he said joining the organization upon returning to Norman was helpful for his transition, as it provided vital connections to other student veterans going through a similar process.
“It can be hard to connect with the younger students you’re in class with,” Hovis said. “I spent eight years in the Army and am eight years older, so it’s great to get a group of veterans together and have that support.”
Nyagol turned to PAVE to find veterans to connect with after spending eight years in the Marines. He came to America from Kenya 15 years ago and currently serves as vice president of the Student Veterans Association.
“It’s a different kind of bond in PAVE,” Nyagol said. “The way I connect with the community being back in college after eight years of service is with people like Brandon [Hovis] and Brooke [Pemberton]. PAVE makes going back to a university more comfortable.”
Pemberton attended OU immediately following high school to pursue a degree in industrial and systems engineering. She paused her studies to join the Air National Guard, returning to OU four years later to continue her education. She now serves as a team leader in PAVE.
Pemberton remains on active duty in the National Guard and is preparing to be deployed, but has plans to resume her role as a team leader when she returns.
“Any kind of transition to college can be crazy,” Pemberton said. “Having the support from someone who understands where you’re coming from can help you have a better experience at the university. That’s what PAVE is trying to do.”
Pemberton said Veterans Day is an opportunity for her to reach out to those who no longer wear the uniform but still deserve the respect and recognition of those who do.
“If I’m wearing my uniform in public, I still get the ‘Thank you for your service,’” Pemberton said. “For me personally, I want to reach out to those who no longer put on the uniform and receive that thank you. They may or may not have other ways to show they’ve given their service.”
For veterans like Nyagol, Veterans Day strikes a special place in his heart due to where he came from and his time serving as a Marine.
“In Kenya, opportunity is scarce,” Nyagol said. “You live, but you don’t live for free.”
Nyagol also expressed his initial calling to join the military came from his appreciation for the growth America provided for him. For him, Veterans Day is a time to appreciate those who have sacrificed for people like him to have these opportunities.
“America has provided me this opportunity I could not have otherwise had,” Nyagol said. “Veterans Day is the 24 hours – too small of 24 hours – to recognize those who have given up so much for this country. Again, it’s too small of time, but take that time to recognize all the freedoms we have and thank the veterans.”
Hovis said Veterans Day is also an opportunity for veterans to stay in touch with people from their units and to maintain the strong connections built during service.
“Maintaining contact can help veterans,” Hovis said. “Especially on this day, reach out to the veterans you know.”
To learn more about PAVE at OU, visit ou.edu/veterans/pave--peer-advisors-for-veteran-education.
By Madysson Morris
Article Published: Wednesday, November 11, 2020