One local university honored the nation's veterans in a big way on the twelfth anniversary of 9/11, opening the Veterans Support Center to thank those who fought to keep this country safe.
In the lower level of the Bush Center, active duty military members and veterans gathered at a picnic -- and plenty had a lot to say about how far the country has come since Sept. 11, 2001. Many were happy to see the center in place, and others said it was a good place -- and a good time -- to open a discussion about the current political climate.
"We can never forget," Lora Nichols, president of the Hamline University Student Veteran's Group, told FOX 9 News. "A lot of innocent people lost their lives that day and we need to honor their memories."
The welcoming gathering marked the official opening of a new, supportive safe haven for student veterans. It's a place where they can access academic support, lectures and build a greater sense of community.
"It's great to be recognized for what we do, and we all feel very appreciated here," Nichols said. "It's a great feeling."
About 100 veterans attend Hamline University, and for those like Don Allen, it's a welcome resource. On Wednesday, the opening gave vets a chance to commune and reflect on progress since the terrorist attacks -- and the current challenge with Syria.
"It kind of reminds me Saddam Hussein during the Bush administration," Allen admitted. "Never found weapons of mass destruction."
Professor Matt Morgan, who is also a veteran, said honoring the veterans and first responders on every 9/11 anniversary is imperative.
"I think it's naïve to think it will never happen again, but we owe it to ourselves to minimize future attacks," he said.
Morgan added that he views the new support center as a sign of progress.
"We started with nothing. We're here now. I expect more in the future," he said.
The Hamline University Veterans Support Center is managed by the school's Center for Student Success and Transition, which also helps veterans transition into college as seamlessly as possible.