Hampton VA Medical Center
Culinary School Veterans Treat Hampton Veterans to Special Meal
Veterans serving Veterans was the order of the day when 30 outpatients from the Hampton VA Medical Center Substance Abuse Treatment Program (SATP) dropped by the ECPI University’s Culinary Institute of Virginia (CIV) Feb. 22 for an expertly prepared lunch, courtesy of fellow Veterans.
“Service is what the military is about,” said retired U.S. Air Force Major Wade O’Neill and chef instructor at the CIV in Norfolk, Va., who explained that it’s was literally Vets serving Vets when they welcomed the heroes from the VAMC for a very special meal.
CIV student Veterans using the GI Bill, staff and members of the general student body prepared, served and shared fellowship with the visiting Veterans from the hospital in the school’s “Dining for Veterans.” O’Neill in January helped establish a Student Veterans of America Chapter at CIV and the luncheon was the inaugural event.
“We have many Veterans here at CIV and the military medical community has found that the best group rehabilitation practices are activities of Veterans with other Veterans,” O’Neill said. “They relate more easily with one another and that helps move the healing process forward.”
Lunch began at 10:30 a.m. and the Veterans were seated and ready to go as soon as their hosts came around to take their orders. Three-year Army Veteran Florine Williams, who worked in food service while in the military, said she was excited to be a part of the event and proud that the Veteran students wanted to share their culinary talents.
"This is great," she said, as she looked around the room and shared laughs with her fellow Veterans. "I'm right at home here."
The mission of Student Veterans of America is to provide military Veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation. Nearly a third of CIV’s students are former or current military. O’Neill, 54 and a Hampton resident, served for 22 years in Europe, the Middle East and stateside, doing tours in the First Gulf War and Kosovo. During his time as squadron commander he was often in charge of dining, recreational and hospitality facilities and services for large numbers of troops. He also has had a lifelong passion for cuisine, holding a degree in culinary arts.
"For most of us, being part of the military was a calling; there was a need to serve our country, to make a meaningful contribution,” O’Neill said. “So it should come as no surprise to see Veterans choosing to pursue a second career in the hospitality industry, continuing a tradition of service, now serving our community and our fellow Veterans."