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Northeastern celebrates opening of just the second on-campus VFW post in nation

10/24/16 - BOSTON, MA. - Scenes during the VFW post ceremony held at the Northeastern University Veterans Memorial on Oct. 24, 2016. Max Spahn, S, 17, former president of Northeastern's Student Veterans Organization, Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America; Brian Martin, state commander of the VFW Department of Massachusetts; and Brian Duffy, commander-in-chief of the VFW all gave remarks. Staff Photo: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Northeastern University expanded its commitment to student veterans on Monday afternoon, officially opening a Veterans of Foreign Wars post during a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial.

The post is named in honor of Robert R. Pirelli, AS’01, an Army Staff Sgt. from Franklin, Massachusetts, who was killed in Iraq in 2007. It is the first post to be opened in Massachusetts since 2009 and just the second in the nation to be run by student veterans on a college campus.

Max Spahn, S’17, a U.S. Marine Corps vet­eran and former pres­i­dent of Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion, will serve as the post’s commander. “We’re one of the best schools for student veterans in the state as well as in the country,” he said prior to the ceremony. “The fact that we are able to take on the responsibility of running this VFW post while juggling school and co-op shows how dedicated we are to helping each other.”

Founded in 1899 by Spanish-American War veterans of the 17th U.S. Infantry, the VFW is the nation’s oldest war veterans service organization. Its vision, according to its website, is to “ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country.”

Northeastern’s post—dubbed the Robert R. Pirelli Post 12158—will function as a hub for veterans at Northeastern and beyond, Spahn said, offering membership to all active or honorably discharged servicemembers who have served in a foreign theater of war. It will focus on providing solutions to veterans facing housing, education, and employment challenges, he explained in his opening remarks at the ceremony, saying that he hoped it would “establish a model for other universities to follow.”

10/24/16 - BOSTON, MA. - Scenes during the VFW post ceremony held at the Northeastern University Veterans Memorial on Oct. 24, 2016. Max Spahn, S, 17, former president of Northeastern's Student Veterans Organization, Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America; Brian Martin, state commander of the VFW Department of Massachusetts; and Brian Duffy, commander-in-chief of the VFW all gave remarks.  Staff Photo: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

A U.S. flag swayed in the wind as a VFW official prepared for the installation ceremony.

In February, Brian Martin, state commander of the VFW in Massachusetts, met with members of the SVO and asked them if they would like to run the post. Martin was impressed by the group’s popularity and productivity, Spahn recalled, and felt like Northeastern would be a good fit for the VFW’s next state post. “We get things done,” Spahn said, pointing to the SVO’s charitable efforts, “and we loving helping veterans.”

On Monday, Brian Duffy, the VFW’s national commander-in-chief, installed more than three dozen veterans as members of post 12158, including 12 students who will take on leadership roles as officers of the organization. “This is a very historic event,” he told the officers. “The torch has been passed,” he added, noting that it is now their responsibility to look out for the next generation of service members.

Post 12158 underscores Northeastern’s longstanding devotion to supporting service members on campus. The majority of the university’s stu­dent vet­erans par­tic­i­pate in the fed­eral government’s Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram, which oper­ates in con­junc­tion with the Depart­ment of Vet­erans Affairs and cur­rently pro­vides schol­ar­ships to hundreds of vet­erans who have served in the post-​​​​​​9/​​​11 era. In addi­tion to the Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram, North­eastern offers stu­dent vet­erans myriad on-​​campus resources to help them achieve their educational and career goals. In 2013, Student Veterans of America recognized Northeastern’s Student Veterans Organization as its top chapter in the United States, ahead of 700 other stu­dent vet­erans pro­grams.

“Northeastern student veterans are at the forefront of taking care of their peers,” said Andy McCarty, the director of the university’s Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers. “For Northeastern to have such a strong and vibrant student veteran community as a private nonprofit institution says a lot about the community and the quality of the work they have done.”