Veterans Day, which falls on Nov. 11 every year, provides Americans an opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifices of U.S. veterans in all branches. While the majority of the University community cannot relate to the experience of serving one’s country, Veterans Day offers a glimpse into the love and dedication those who did.
This year, the Villanova Society of Veteran Affairs (VSVA) commemorated the federal holiday through Operation: Reconnect. By soliciting poetry, artwork and written prose submissions, VSVA gave students an outlet to express their creativity and gratitude to military personnel stuck at sea due to COVID-19 restrictions. The goal was to receive 1,000 letters by Nov. 11. Letters were dropped off at boxes set up all over campus.
VSVA also celebrated Veterans Day by hosting a flag planting ceremony at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at Mendel Field.
In addition to these commemorations, VSVA interviewed three veterans affiliated with the University: Michael D. Brown, Joe Evans and Mohamed Siam.
Michael D. Brown is the current Director of Office and Military Service Members. Brown saw the army as a good opportunity and joined after high school as an infantry active for four years, an experience that opened his eyes to the world. After being stationed in Germany, he was deployed to Bosnia, where he was able to explore his passions and interests. As Brown recounted, being in the military was a growing and learning experience. It showed him what true leadership looked like and that with the right attitude, anything could be accomplished.
After his service, Brown decided to attend college as a student veteran through the GI Bill. As a nontraditional student and often the oldest in a classroom, he acknowledged that being an infantry soldier in the army did not translate into having a job.
After leaving college, Brown moved to Pennsylvania to work for Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress. While in the office, Brown helped rewrite the GI Bill. The role provided an opportunity to directly assist veterans and change their lives. Brown also worked in the Philadelphia Veterans Court to support veterans in contact with the criminal justice system, as well as supporting student veterans at a local community college.
In 2018, Brown saw that the University was creating an Office of Veteran and Military Members. He applied and was hired as the first person to hold the position. Since coming to the University, Brown has seen the love Villanovans have for the school that stems from the culture of the campus and its commitment to the community.
His goals are to make the University a veteran-ready campus by changing internal policies and increasing the population of undergraduate student veterans. Brown hopes to create a welcoming environment for student veterans to feel like a sense of belonging, a center they can call home on campus.
Joe Evans is a current doctoral student in the Theology and Religious Studies Department. Originally from Royersford, Pennsylvania, Evans was commissioned as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army in 1999. He retired after twenty years of service as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2019.
Evans began as an Infantry Officer in the 10th Mountain Division, first serving in Kosovo while conducting peacekeeping operations. He then was deployed to Afghanistan to train and lead the first units of the Afghan National Army. This was followed by a year of combat operations in Iraq, culminating in his planning and leading a portion of the first battle of Fallujah.
As a Rifle Company Commander, he led his unit into the mountains of Kunar and Nuristan Provinces of eastern Afghanistan to conduct eighteen months of counterinsurgency operations. As a South Asian Foreign Area Officer, he planned and conducted U.S. military security cooperation and disaster response activities in Pakistan and Nepal, developed by the U.S. foreign policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army Staff in the Pentagon, and coordinated U.S. Army Security cooperation activities with Central and South Asia in the U.S. Army Central.
Evans holds an M.A. in World Politics from the Catholic University of America, an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Alabama, an M.S. in the Art and Science of Warfare from the University of Balochistan, Pakistan, and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University. He also received a Certificate in Interfaith Conflict Resolution from the United States Institute of Peace.
His military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, the Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo campaign medals, the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the NATO Defense Medal. He was also awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and the Joint Staff Badge.
Mohamed Siam is a current Graduate Resident Director (GRD), a paraprofessional member of the Residence Life staff, at the University. Siam served in the U.S. Marine Reserves as a rifleman from 2012 to 2020. He recently finished eight years of service and received an honorable discharge certificate. Siam was a part of the Second Battalion 25th Marines Golf Company and the 1st Platoon Second Squad.
Siam’s decision to join the Marine Corps was based on a variety of factors. Higher education was not a financially feasible option for him, and within the Arabian culture, the second son typically joins the military. Another reason why he committed was that he wanted to represent Palestinian Muslims in a positive light and to experience being in the military.
After going to Afghanistan in September 2018, he left in April 2019. He applied for the GRD position from Afghanistan via Skype and has been working here since. Siam received his Bachelor’s in History and Political Science at Rutgers University and is currently pursuing higher education.
As a student leader and veteran, Siam has been able to reach other communities, specifically other students from political groups. Because having a military background is not common anymore, he enjoys speaking to others about his experiences and socializing on campus.