U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Sawyer, retired, has spoken at prior UWS Veterans Day events. At this year’s event, Sawyer spoke about the changes he has seen over his career.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas Sawyer

A talkback session regarding diversity in the military and among students was hosted on Nov. 12, by the Veteran and Nontraditional Student Center (VNSC) via Zoom in honor of Veterans Day.

Panelists included some of the local veteran students in the UWS campus community, who all had their own story to share regarding their experience in the military. Topics discussed included diversity issues in the military such as treatment of members regarding their race, socioeconomic background and sexual orientation.

One of the bigger topics that was brought up was the toxicity from some military leadership, including how a lot of current leaders were once young folks in the military when the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in effect alongside other poor practices regarding jobs for minority groups.

“It really is out with the old, literally, and in with the new,” said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Sawyer, retired. Sawyer, a member of the gay community, spoke on what he has seen change throughout his military career, “It’s a lot harder to go back into the closet and pretend to be something different. They are fighting for diversity now at these military academies that train future military leaders that are generally geared to recruit from wealthier families from the Northeastern part of the U.S.” Sawyer served from 1997 to 2020.

The panelists went on to discuss how they were treated as newcomers to the military and how sometimes they were taken advantage of because they weren’t quite sure how they fit in at that time or how they should be treated.

“I was a 1% of a 1% as a Native American in the Marine Corps,” said U.S. Marine Corps and Army Sergeant Daniel Mayotte, retired. “For us, we just stuck together. When I first joined, the higherups put us in ‘the reservation’- which was what they called a separate part of the barracks to separate us from the rest.” Mayotte served from 1996 to 2009.

The conversation went on for over an hour and ended with a thanking of the veterans for their service and their openness and willingness to discuss difficult topics on a public forum with the hope of bettering the future for others.