by Brian Foster , Sr.
The Upsilon Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. held its 4th annual Veterans Appreciation Luncheon Thursday November 11, 2021, at the Adam Herbert Center on the University of North Florida campus. This year’s theme was Women Veterans Sustaining the Fight.
When asked why the chapter decided to begin its tradition of honoring veterans, the chapter’s President, Mr. Avery Cohen, mentioned the numerous sacrifices made by those who served.
“Seeing as that our local veterans sacrifice so much and contribute immensely to the local Jacksonville Community, along with the fact that one of the founders of our great fraternity was the first African American to commission and serve in the New York National Guard, we felt it not only appropriate but necessary to honor the brave men and women in uniform. There are thousands of veterans, including myself, that are members of our great fraternity, and we wanted to salute their service as well.
“We also felt that it would be appropriate to highlight the service and sacrifice of our women veterans. We wanted to emphasize the fact that the title veteran is something that was earned and not something that was simply attributed as an afterthought. Every veteran, regardless of background, race, gender etc., but especially women veterans, stand shoulder to shoulder voluntarily carrying the load during combat and peacetime. They make the same sacrifices as their male counterparts. They sacrifice time away from family and friends, they serve in harsh weather environments, they unfortunately sustain injuries and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this great nation.”
The luncheon was highlighted by two eloquent speakers, both of which represent membership in the Divine Nine Greek letter organizations. Lieutenant Colonel Keshan Chambliss, US Air Force (Ret.), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and Captain Rickia McGee, US Army, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., both highlighted what sustaining the fight meant to them.
Keynote speaker Lieutenant Colonel Chambliss spoke about perseverance and not settling for the status quo.
“I wanted to emphasize that women veterans play just as important a role as our men veterans. We (women veterans) were not assigned to units as decoration, as morale boosters, nor as objects to ‘pretty up’ the place.
“We performed surgery in combat, we dressed wounds, we ordered munitions down range, we flew aircraft, we drove ships, we provided ground cover for troops on the ground, we led men and women into harm’s way… We served valiantly and earned the title veteran.”
Speaker Captain Rickia McGee spoke about how important representation is.
“Oftentimes I would be the only woman, the only Black woman in spaces that were male dominated. I wanted to prove them that I was intelligent, that I was qualified and that I had the right to be there. I also wanted to ensure that I got my foot in the door so other women could have the same opportunities as I did.”
Each speaker was provided a plaque of appreciation and various gifts as thanks. The Upsilon Lambda chapter would like to thank the staff at UNF and the public for its support.