By Jada Butler
Dan Christoffel, an art professor and Vietnam veteran, was honored with a certificate of recognition for his service in the military. The honor was given by Maria Salazar, art therapy major and president of the Veteran Students United (VSU) club during the club’s veteran art exhibit on Monday, Nov. 5 during common hour.
“He deserved the award because Dan embodies the ‘esprit de corps.’ He is a loyal and giving of himself,” Salazar said.
She first met Christoffel at a workshop lead by him and Professor Frank Olt. The workshop introduced veterans to working with clay.
“I was fully enamored with clay after this workshop. As a fellow veteran, he always exhibits pride and honor and comradeship in the military of the United States, but his loyal spirit to serve is ever so present in his teaching,” Salazar reflected. “He is the kind of professor that really enjoys teaching you, and making sure that you are successful and proficient in your craft.”
Salazar served in the Marine Corps from 2002-2011 as a logistic specialist. She deployed to Iraq in 2003, and was honorably discharged as sergeant in 2011. Salazar stepped up to be president of VSU because of her strong belief in setting the veteran presence at Post. She wants to “tie in our time in military service and our willingness to continue to serve our communities and fellow veterans,” through VSU.
Salazar understands the healing potential of art making. After losing a Marine friend to suicide in 2012, Salazar went back to school to make a difference. “My goal and mission is to reach my fellow veterans suffering from PTSD and lend them a hand and guide them towards healing using art as our communication vehicle,” she said. “My hope is to lessen the number of Veterans that commit suicide daily.”
VSU has a number of events for Veteran’s week, including a clothing donation drive for the United Veterans Beacon House through Nov. 9; a “#22 pushup challenge” on Wednesday, Nov. 7, during common hour in Hillwood Commons lobby to raise awareness for Veteran suicide; a flag raising ceremony to celebrate 100 years of women serving in the Marines and a luncheon afterwards on Thursday, Nov. 8 during common hour; and ending with a Medal of Honor Challenge on Riggs Lawn during common hour on Friday, Nov. 9.
The Veteran Students United club meets every Thursday from 12:30 p.m. t0 1:30 p.m. in Hillwood Commons room 206.