An honorable exhibit

New library exhibit brings veterans’ experiences to life


Jessica Simms/Chronicle

The exhibit displayed items provided by student veterans and O’Hare’s family treasures.

Jessica Simms, Arts & Life Editor

Sandra O’Hare’s passion, knowledge and connections to veterans drove her to create the newest exhibit at the Arnold Bernhard Library. The exhibit, Honoring Veterans, includes a slide show, posters, a vertical case and three typical display cases full of O’Hare’s family treasures and Quinnipiac veterans’ memorabilia. 

As the personal librarian to student veterans, O’Hare is able to bring her knowledge  to Quinnipiac by assisting student veterans with research and assignments. However, O’Hare takes this job a step further.

“I mean I can also just answer questions too,” O’Hare said. “‘How do I do this? What office do I go to for that?’ I am willing to do that for them. So it’s whatever they need. I can be here and be a resource for them.” 

Through these special connections to Quinnipiac’s student veterans, O’Hare was able to expand this library exhibit from what it was last year and incorporate Quinnipiac veterans’ memorabilia alongside her family’s. 

“I did a very small  (exhibit) last year,” O’Hare said. “We have a vertical case and then we have three typical display cases. So last year, I just did the vertical case with family memorabilia that I have and this year they said that the other cases were available just because of the timing, so I went, ‘I can fill those.’” 

Last year was O’Hare’s first time creating this particular exhibit for the Arnold Bernhard Library and she focused on her family’s experiences in the military, such as her grandfather’s. This year, O’Hare has worked on putting together a singular book to record her grandfather’s experience in the military in order to have all the information in one place.

“I just always been passionate about veterans, the military,” O’Hare said. “It’s just how I was brought up. My grandfather was a World War II vet. We lost him a year ago. But he was on Omaha Beach on D-Day. That was his 22nd birthday. I just finished putting together a memorial book about him that is 300 and something pages and a third of it is his time in the military. He was an immigrant.”

This year O’Hare connected with Quinnipiac veterans to see if they would like to contribute items of meaning to the exhibit and some have already brought in their items to be displayed. 

“I reached out to the student vets on campus and I asked them if they had anything and I heard back from a few of them,” O’Hare said. “So far only one of them has dropped stuff off. But I know schedules being what they are. But he dropped off a jar of sand that he collected on Iwo Jima beach and he was a marine and Iwo Jima, that was one of the huge battles for marines. That’s very close to their hearts.”

Nick Deleonardo, a criminal justice major and a first-semester student at Quinnipiac, is the student veteran that dropped off the sand from Iwo Jima beach. The battle that occurred on the Iwo Jima beach was one of the bloodiest and most famous battles for the Marine Corps. For Deleonardo, getting to go and visit this beach was a pivotal moment in his life. 

“The sand came from the beach where the initial beach assault from the Marines began, and the legend behind the sand is that it is still dark-colored to this day because of the blood that was shed while the Marines were invading the beach,” Deleonardo said. “It means a lot to me because not many people get to go to Iwo Jima, tours are very hard to come by and it was a ‘right place, right time’ thing for me, so I feel very honored and lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a place so rich in history and legacy.”

By reaching out to student veterans on campus to help contribute to the exhibit, O’Hare is hoping that this library exhibit will resonate more with Quinnipiac students. 

Jessica Simms/Chronicle

“I hope that it makes it a little more real to (Quinnipiac students) and it’s not just things they saw in a history book because I tried to make part of it relatable to students on campus with student veterans and we have a slideshow running and that shows things off of the news,” O’Hare said. “Things from today, so it’s not just stuff that your grandparents did.” 

Along with the cases full of family artifacts and Quinnipiac veterans’ personal items, O’Hare also has created a slideshow that includes images that show the different sides military service has. Additionally, O’Hare was able to get posters from the Smithsonian that specifies on World War I, covering different aspects of that pivotal war. 

Behind all the learning students can encounter by looking at this exhibit in the Arnold Bernhard Library is passion and connection from O’Hare and the student veterans that contributed. Every item on display and all the work that was put in to create the slideshow and posters has a lot of rich history behind it. 

“I hope students will have an appreciation for all the items on display,” Deleonardo said. “Every item that is being brought in has a story behind it, and they mean a lot to the veterans that own them. Whether it be uniforms, medals, old weapons, helmets, etc, they all mean something. Also it’s ‘living’ history. I believe physically seeing historical artifacts allows us to remember and never forget the past, and to honor those that have served and at one point had to use those artifacts.” 

For O’Hare, especially, the topic of veterans’ history means a lot, but in her eyes, having these Quinnipiac veterans contribute will hopefully spread the idea that military service is more than just history-— it is also a part of the present. 

“It is just so close to my heart because a lot of it is family, but again the recognition and what I would like to see happen is students on campus realizing that their classmates have actually served too and to talk to them about it because they have such rich experiences that they can share,” O’Hare said. “It’s tough. They’ve been through a lot. The person that comes home is not the person that left.”