Last week was Military Appreciation Week at WIU. The week kicked off on Monday with the Yellow Ribbon Campaign; in the Union, the WIU Veterans Club passed out yellow ribbon pins so students, faculty and staff could show their support for veterans. I received a ribbon and wore it proudly. Also on Monday, the Veterans Resource Center had a panel where students could ask veterans about what they do; the program was called Veteran Resources 101.
Many campus clubs and organizations, including the Broadcasting Department, made cards for the veterans and submitted them to the Veteran Resource Center who will send the cards on to vets. My sorority got together with another sorority and made cards for the veterans, as well. It’s great that so many students and organizations got involved in this special week.
All throughout last week, people viewed a display called Salute to Women in the Military; this display was sponsored by the Women’s Center. Also each day last week ROTC Cadets were available to retire worn flags. Other events/presentations included Veterans Voices – Personal Stories of Combat and Peace and an Ask a Vet Panel Discussion.
On Veterans Day, many attended the Veterans and Service Members Tribute Ceremony. President Jack Thomas, WIU’s Army ROTC Color Guard, Veterans Club President Lukas Smith, Board of Trustees member Michael Quigley, music education major Alison Huntley, Vice President for Student Services Gary Biller, and School of Music Professor Bruce Briney led the ceremony. After it, members of the campus community read the names of veterans associated with WIU at the National Roll Call Project.
Veterans Club President Lukas Smith gave a speech at the ceremony. He brought up the issues that veterans face in society during his speech. Smith is a junior, geology major at WIU. He spent three years (active duty) in the army and had two tours in Iraq. I asked Smith about his favorite part of the Military Appreciation Week. “Probably the actual Veterans’ Ceremony because I could get up in front of everyone and discuss the issues that veterans are having. Veterans Day is just a phase. People like to say ‘oh yeah, thanks veterans’. In reality there are a lot of problems that veterans face and people need to be made aware of that,” said Smith.
The Veterans Resource Center staff have been working hard to create awareness for veterans. Each year, WIU’s Military Appreciation Week grows and new events are added to the docket. For many years, Western has been designated as a “Military Friendly School” and the campus staff works hard to support veterans. Smith explained that Western being a “Military Friendly School” played a big part in him choosing to attend WIU.
Smith explained the importance of Military Appreciation Week. “Thanking veterans has become a habit…something that decent people do. Me being thanked for my service doesn’t sound any more special than when someone says God bless you when you sneeze. It’s become good manners. A lot of people say it because they want to be polite, but they don’t really understand what they’re thanking us for. This whole Military Appreciation Week, doing Roll Call, doing the veterans’ stories…(it) helps make people aware of what veterans go through, that way when they do say ‘thank you for your service’, they can understand why and be more sincere about it.”
For more information on WIU’s veterans’ services, contact the Veterans Resource Center at (309) 298-3509 or visit http://www.wiu.edu/student_services/veterans/.