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Alumnus leads Air Force flyover at Cal State LA Veterans Day ceremony

November 8, 2018

Supervisor Hilda Solis, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez deliver remarks

By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service

Cal State LA alumnus Lt. Col. Brian Peters returned to his alma mater on Thursday, two decades after walking the campus as a student. But this time his view was from 1,000 feet up.

Peters, a La Verne resident, piloted a massive U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III over Cal State LA as part of the university’s 2018 Veterans Day Ceremony. The roar of the 174-foot aircraft broke the silence of the crisp fall afternoon air, as the crowd gathered in the University-Student Union Plaza stared up at the sky in awe.

“When I went to Cal State LA it was never something I dreamt of,” Peters said of the flyover. He graduated in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology. “Now, how cool is this? My career is coming full circle.”

The flyover opened the Nov. 8 event, which honored the service and sacrifice of military veterans, including Cal State LA’s more than 360 student veterans.

Colors were presented by members of the U.S. Army Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion, L.A. Central Recruiting Center while music student Hollie Jones performed the national anthem. Cal State LA student and U.S. Army veteran Matthew R. Keels, who is the Associated Students, Inc. Veterans Affairs representative, served as the emcee for the event.

Dani Molina, a U.S. Army veteran and director of the Cal State LA Veterans Resource Center, delivered opening remarks acknowledging the sacrifices of those who have served in the military.

Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Vice President for Student Life Nancy Wada-Mckee and U.S. Rep. Jimmy GomezThe university community was joined by U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, whose 34th Congressional District includes Cal State LA, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, whose First District includes the university.

“Veterans Day is a day to celebrate, but also to remember that we have to honor their service and their sacrifice every single day, not just on November 11,” Gomez said.

Gomez and Solis stressed the importance of providing benefits to veterans when they return home from serving in the military, of which more than 350,000 reside in Los Angeles County.

“I am pleased to be here to honor both our men and women who wear our uniform,” Solis said. “I think it is time for us to again reassure ourselves that there are people that make many, many sacrifices for our freedoms.”

Solis applauded Cal State LA’s commitment to serving its student veterans and their families through the Veterans Resource Center and presented Cal State LA with a proclamation on behalf of Los Angeles County in recognition of the ceremony.

The keynote speaker was U.S. Marine Corps veteran Marshall W. Thomas, director of Active Duty and Veterans Affairs at the California State University Office of the Chancellor.

Thomas told guests the story of Cal State LA’s founding in 1947. The university was created by the state legislature in response to a rapid influx in veterans and others in Los Angeles seeking an education after World War II.

“The foundation of this institution is veterans,” Thomas said. “That generation of veterans that Cal State LA served in the ’40s and ’50s went on to do some amazing things.”

Lt. Col. Brian Peters in front of an aircraftThe ceremony was sponsored by the Division of Student Life, Veterans Resource Center and Associated Students, Inc.

The C-17 Globemaster III from the flyover has a wingspan of nearly 170 feet and is assigned to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County. The cargo compartment can fit helicopters and tanks or be converted into a mobile hospital.

In his 18-year Air Force Reserve career, Peters has often flown the same model of aircraft on trips to airlift patients out of combat zones or deliver equipment to military bases overseas.  

Thursday’s flyover was Peters’ first in Los Angeles County and second ever. Earlier this year he flew over Angel Stadium in Anaheim for Major League Baseball’s opening day.

“There’s a different electricity in the air when the flyover happens,” said Peters, who is also a pilot for Alaska Airlines.

Military flyovers give the public a chance to see large military aircraft in action up close without being in danger, Peters said. But, he emphasizes, flyovers are more than a celebration of a particular aircraft.

“I am just the lucky one that gets to fly,” Peters said. “It’s in honor of those who served—it’s for them and their families—to remind them that they’re not forgotten.”

Photos: Above, A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, piloted by alumnus Lt. Col. Brian Peters, flies over Cal State LA during the 2018 Veterans Day Ceremony. Middle, Supervisor Hilda L. Solis (left) with Cal State LA Vice President for Student Life Nancy Wada-Mckee and U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez. Bottom, Lt. Col. Brian Peters. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA; Bottom photo courtesy of Lt. Col. Brian Peters)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.

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