By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities
RICHLAND, Wash. – Emmanuel “Manny” Bonilla joined the U.S. Air Force at age 27 to improve life for his family in two ways: gain citizenship and finish college. Now a U.S. citizen, he is pursuing his dream major of computer science at Washington State University Tri-Cities.
In honor of Veterans Day, he and fellow university veterans helped organize a memorial tribute this week and collected gifts as part of Operation Thank You.
For the tribute, campus and community members wrote the names of loved ones who served in the military on ribbons that were hung on a “Hero Tree” near the entrance to the East Building. The gift drive collected donations of toiletries, food, games and other items that will be packed and sent to those serving active duty overseas.
“The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor all of our past and current soldiers, airmen, sailors and other members of our branches,” Bonilla said. “A lot of students came out, grandparents who served and friends of people who are in the military right now. It means a lot for us to honor them.”
He said the university holds veteran students in high regard and assists their transition back to civilian life by preparing them for the next stages in their careers.
“I don’t think there is a school that is more accepting and more supportive of its veterans,” he said. “I love this school; coming here has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
WSU Tri-Cities is designated a “Veteran Supportive Campus” by the state Department of Veteran Affairs based on the university’s ability to meet individual veteran needs, its benefits for veterans and its assistance in helping them obtain internal and external support. For more information, visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/veterans/ or contact the WSU Tri-Cities Veterans Center at 509-372-7364.