Texas A&M has always had strong ties to the military. The student veteran population is increasing every year as more service men and women return home from battle.
Now, thanks to several veterans groups on campus, these proud veterans are getting recognized during graduation.
"Congratulations! Well deserved, well earned," says Col. Gerald “Jerry” L. Smith, USMC (Retired). Col. Smith isn't congratulating these students for getting a military commission.
These students have already served. He's congratulating them on getting their college degrees from Texas A&M University.
The Retired Marine Corps Colonel oversees the Veteran Services Resource Center.
"I've got the best job in America now," laughs Col. Smith. He used to be an instructor of naval sciences. The students come from different branches and backgrounds, transitioning to college life.
"We also want to help them make the second transition from being a student into finding a job," says Col. Smith.
"I didn't really understand, not being from Texas, what Texas A&M is all about until and I got here," remembers Melody Jackson.
"I was like everybody was helpful, friendly, and I fit in with the young people and the older people," says Jackson.
These veterans come from structured environments. For some, it's a big transition.
"The military is a very different environment from being in an academic setting. In the military, they were told what to wear, what to eat, when to eat, what to ride in. And they find themselves here and it's much less structured," says Col. Smith.
The cord is an outward showing of recognition and support from the university. After this weekend, take their degrees and experiences, from college and service, forward.
"I'm super excited!" laughs Jackson.
"I didn't think I would be this excited, but I'm really proud," she continued.
Although military uniforms may be worn at graduation by students currently serving, the cord can be worn at commencement ceremonies only by those wearing academic regalia. Military regulations prohibit wearing of such items by personnel who are in uniform.