From Camo to College: Military Veterans Forge New Paths at UVA

November 3, 2023 By Matt Kelly, Matt Kelly,

The University of Virginia has a strong history with the U.S. military, with an ROTC program creating officers for the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force. UVA is also ranked in the top 10 of universities nationwide for veterans, with 291 former service members in its student body, including 59 undergraduates.

As the University prepares to honor veterans with a 24-hour POW/MIA vigil and ceremony on Monday and Tuesday on the north side of the Rotunda, ahead of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, UVA Today asked some of those who have already served and are now enrolled at the University why they chose UVA to pursue college degrees, and what they want others to know about their service.

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Jasmin Campos

Hometown: San Diego

Major: Biology

Military Branch: Marine Corps

Where did you serve? Yuma, Arizona, and Camp Pendleton, California

Why did you choose UVA? I was getting ready to transfer to a four-year university when my husband and I moved to Charlottesville for an internship. We fell in love with the area, bought a house and, thankfully, my application for transfer was accepted. UVA was never the plan, but it worked out perfectly.

What does Veterans Day mean to you? Veterans Day honors patriots who believed in this country and her ideals of liberty and justice. We are grateful to have served a nation that has the power to reject oppression and become the beacon of freedom we claim to be. While we honor those who once served, we also remember the young men and women in foreign lands still fighting America’s battles.

What's Bigger Than Big Data? Brain Data.
What's Bigger Than Big Data? Brain Data.

Katy Dominguez

Portrait of Katy Dominguez

Katy Dominguez (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Hometown: Crane, Texas

Major: Civil and environmental engineering

Military Branch: Army

Where did you serve? Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California; Wiesbaden, Germany; Fort Bliss, Texas; Bogota, Columbia; Buckley Space Force Base, Colorado

Why did you choose UVA? I came to the University of Virginia as a recipient of the Posse Foundation Veteran Scholarship, which partners with top colleges to provide veterans with support and community while they pursue an undergraduate degree.

What does Veterans Day mean to you? To me, Veterans Day is a day to reflect on the sacrifices veterans make, from the ultimate sacrifice to other sacrifices that veterans and military families make throughout our military experiences. It’s a day to feel grateful for my military community of friends, leaders and mentors. And it’s a day to feel grateful for a nation that dedicates a day to thanking us.

Jon Gangsaas

Portrait of Jon Gangsaas

Jon Gangsaas (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

Hometown: Front Royal

Major: History and philosophy

Military Branch: Navy

Where did you serve? Bahrain and Mayport, Florida, onboard USS The Sullivans

Why did you choose UVA? I came to UVA because it is a world-renowned school. Also, I am Virginia-born and -raised.

What does Veterans Day mean to you? Veterans Day is a day to thank those who risked their lives for the nation by volunteering to serve in the armed forces.

Edgar Rodrigo Hercila San Miguel

Portrait of Edgar Rodrigo Hercila San Miguel

Edgar Rodrigo Hercila San Miguel (Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)

Hometown: Brea, California

Major: Global development studies and data science

Military Branch: Army

Where did you serve? Amarah, Iraq

Why did you choose UVA? Between Harvard, Duke and UVA, [the] University of Virginia had the better DFAC [dining facilities]. I am first-generation American of Mayan decent and a first-generation university student who happens to be a combat veteran. Choosing to spend my prepaid tuition earned in service to this great country of ours, I hope attending UVA will afford me the opportunity to reaffirm the principles that I believe need to be conserved. I am tremendously proud of my Latin heritage and values the veteran community holds that are undervalued. I want to communicate and expand these unique, real-world perspectives here at UVA.

What does Veterans Day mean to you? Veterans Day is a day that distinguishes the less than one half of a percent of [the] American population that chose to serve our great country in the wars of the last decade. Beyond that, it distinguishes the men and women of moral courage who accepted the courageous responsibility to secure the freedoms and liberties that sadly, many Americans today have taken for granted.

24-hour POW/MIA Vigil and Ceremony

UVA’s ceremony honoring veterans will begin Monday at 3 p.m. on the University Avenue side of the Rotunda with a 24-hour vigil remembering prisoners of war and service members missing in action. The vigil will conclude with a ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 4 p.m. The program will include guest speaker Brig. Gen. Houston R. Cantwell, a Navy honor guard and a 21-gun salute. The vigil and the ceremony are open to the public.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications