The university will host its inaugural Veterans Alumni Gala on Friday night as a part of the larger celebration of Warrior Week.
The keynote speaker at the gala will be Will Jimeno, a former police officer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Jimeno and some of his fellow officers were trapped beneath rubble of the World Trade Center for 13 hours after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Jimeno said it is an honor to be able to visit Oxford for the first time and speak at an event that honors military veterans.
“I am very excited to be speaking at this great event as we honor our fellow Americans and heroes who ensure our freedoms are protected,” Jimeno said.
Jimeno was born in Colombia, but he moved to the United States at a young age. Jimeno said that, along with speaking on his experiences during the 9/11 attacks, he will discuss his experiences as an immigrant and the influence his parents had on him.
“I talk about my experience on 9/11 but also how I came to this country from Colombia … and how my parents instilled in me the American values such as serving my country,” Jimeno said.
Warrior Week, an event put on by the university’s Veteran and Military Services to connect veteran students and alumni, will conclude Saturday at the Ole Miss football game against South Carolina. Veteran and Military Services Assistant Director Andrew Newby said Warrior Week was his idea to positively affect the lives of Ole Miss veterans.
“Warrior Week was an idea I had to highlight our student veterans on campus who would otherwise go unnoticed,” Newby said. “I wanted to show the Ole Miss family exactly who we have on our campus, and this was a great way to ensure they aren’t forgotten.”
Newby said the Veterans Alumni Gala fits perfectly into the Warrior Week vision and can help connect current veteran students to their futures.
“(The Veterans Alumni Gala) was created to connect student veterans to our successful alumni,” Newby said. “The purpose of the entire evening is to connect students to their futures.”
Newby said his role as assistant director of Veteran and Military Services requires that he care about the lives and futures of his students, a focus reflected in this week’s gala.
“I want to make meaningful impacts in (veterans’) lives, and by connecting them with someone from their new career fields, I hope the alums can find new talent who are able to make meaningful, positive impacts in any of the fields they pursue,” Newby said.
Besides speaking at the gala, Jimeno will get to experience tailgating at The Grove and an Ole Miss football game for the first time.
“I have never been to Oxford, but everyone I have spoken to about Ole Miss cannot stop telling me of its beauty, but most of all the wonderful people there,” Jimeno said. “My wife Allison and I are looking forward to seeing another part of the U.S.A and seeing The Grove and spending time with the Ole Miss people and environment.”