Communications leader Sally Susman ’84 to give keynote address at Commencement
"Thank you for your service."
It's a phrase veterans and members of the military hear often. But Samantha Santiago '16 wants to know: When people say it, what do they really mean?
Santiago is a sociology major and dance and Hispanic studies double minor. She is also a military police officer in the Army Reserves, and the only currently serving member of the military among Connecticut College’s student body.
"I'll be walking across campus or in the dining hall in my uniform, and people will thank me for my service. I never know quite how to respond—'You're welcome' doesn’t seem to fit," Santiago said. "I started wondering what people were really thanking me for."
Santiago gave students, staff and faculty the opportunity to honor those who have served by recording them in a special video message that she hopes to share with the USO and Veterans Administration.
"I wanted the campus community to really consider the sacrifices made every day and what it means for their lives today," Santiago said. "I wanted to go past the standard 'Thank you for your service.'"
Appearing in the video, Calli Reynolds '17 said that she is unable to join the military due to medical issues but is humbled knowing others are willing to serve when she can't. "When I say I appreciate veterans and I appreciate their service, it is more than just a thank you."
Christian Vasquez '19 also appears in the video. He said that his grandfather served, so he sees a piece of his grandfather in all veterans and knows they are making a difference, just like his grandfather did during his service.
Santiago, a Posse scholar from Chicago, spent last spring break serving in Belize, helping the Belizean Defense Force guard a base there. She also has mandatory trainings—called drill—one weekend every month.
"I have to switch between a military mentality and everyday life as a college student," Santiago said.
Professor of Sociology Ron Flores calls Santiago "a real asset to the College."
"Her presence here helps students remember that there are men and women out there fighting for our freedoms. She reminds people here of that on a daily basis," Flores said.
After graduation, Santiago plans to pursue a master’s degree in dance movement therapy. Eventually, she hopes to become a dance therapist for soldiers.