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Archive: Letter from the founders of Veterans@VT

Zack Mayo in the U.S. Navy
Gino Vivalda in the U.S. Army

Dear Veterans,

We are Zack Mayo (served 5 years in the Navy on the USS Harry S. Truman and at NAS Oceana) and Gino Vivalda (served 4 years in the Army at Fort Bragg, NC), founders of Veterans@VT, a chapter of Student Veterans of America. We would like to welcome you and all other returning vets to Virginia Tech.

Our goal is to provide transition assistance for incoming and current student veterans in a social and academic role. Some of our main objectives are to help smooth over your transition into college life and to make it as stress free and enjoyable as possible, to help with maximizing your VA benefits, and to serve as advocates for any university issues you may have.

Even though we are not all from the same social background, we are all veterans. By connecting with this group, you will find that we do share common interests. The bonds that made us friends and comrades in the military are still the same bonds that we have here.  

We have been through similar hardships, separations, and frustrations. With our military service, we have shared something most college students haven’t, and we should use this experience to our advantage. The stresses we’ve endured and the camaraderie we’ve formed are unmatched. We are all veterans, bringing us together after our service is an opportunity that we shouldn’t pass up. Striving to connect vets--especially within our generation--is of the utmost importance, along with creating a lasting bond among brothers and sisters in arms.

We don’t look to discriminate among services. Our friendly rivalry makes us who we are. We are a group of people like no other; we can stop each other and immediately carry on an hour-long conversation even without having met before.  Regardless of age, we can meet veterans of another generation and be engrossed by their stories and experiences the same way they would be of ours. That is something we value and know will last a lifetime.

To be able to connect a community of vets at Virginia Tech is important to us because we would like to see future vets come in without the “out of place feeling,” ensuring  a positive experience beginning at orientation and continuing throughout each student’s academic career.  Be it a doctorate student or a new freshman, we all share that common bond as VETERANS. We hope that this student group will last for years to come, past ourselves and all of you, to continue the same support that we all deserve.


Zack Mayo and Gino Vivalda

Founders of Veterans@VT