Veterans Appreciation Week will pay tribute to the University of Oregon’s military-affiliated students — with a dual focus on paying it forward.
In addition to numerous campus events to honor Duck veterans, several activities will bring awareness to issues affecting veterans in the surrounding community and beyond.
“All of the UO community is invited to get involved and meet our student veterans,” said Michelle Klemens, veterans program specialist with the Office of the Dean of Students. “We’ve expanded the number of events this year, giving more opportunities for everyone on campus to show their support.”
The week kicks off with the annual Veterans Day Recognition Ceremony on Monday, Nov. 12, in the Erb Memorial Union ballroom. The event runs from 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and will include music, speakers and refreshments.
Speakers will include Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and UO student Rosa Merrill, a military dependent and current president of the Veterans and Family Student Association.
“Our goal is to pay tribute to as many University of Oregon veterans as we can,” said organizer Michael Thomas, veterans program coordinator graduate employee.
In the course of recognizing the sacrifices made by UO military-affiliated students, the veterans program also wants to call attention to the challenges some veterans face after returning to civilian life, including homelessness and mental health issues.
“Each day in the United States, 22 veterans die by suicide,” Klemens said.
“To bring this even closer to home, 1 in 4 Lane County suicides is a veteran,” she said, citing a report from Lane County Public Health.
These sobering statistics prompted the creation of Protect the 22, an outreach event for suicide awareness and prevention. From noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, Ducks are invited to gather at the “O” desk in the EMU, do 22 pushups, and learn about suicide prevention.
Another community-facing effort will be a collection drive for winter clothing. Gear for cold and wet weather can be dropped off at the Student Veterans Center in Room 15 of the Erb Memorial Union from Nov. 12 to 16. The items will be given to St. Vincent DePaul’s Support Services for Veteran Families for distribution to those experiencing housing insecurity.
Other events during the week include:
- Nov. 12-16: Flag display to honor veterans, on the lawn of the Lillis Business Complex.
- Nov. 14: Panel discussion for veterans and UO ROTC cadets, noon-1 p.m. at the Falling Sky Pizzeria and Public House in the EMU.
- Nov. 15: “Vets-giving” light lunch and dessert, open to UO veterans and the military-affiliated community, noon-2 p.m. in the EMU Student Veterans Center and presented by Peer Advisors for Veteran Education.
- Nov. 16: Wear red Friday to remember everyone deployed.
- Nov. 16: Lunch for veterans and military-affiliated members, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in the EMU Student Veterans Center and hosted by the Veterans and Family Student Association.
The week wraps up with a tailgater on Nov. 17 before the UO-Arizona football game. Military-connected students and their families are invited to join the event near the Eugene Science Center.
“ASUO has donated game tickets for the first 50 military-affiliated students who sign up for them,” said Kenneth Barrett, a coordinator with the Veterans and Family Student Association, which is presenting the tailgater. The online signup closes Nov. 7.
An estimated 450 military-affiliated students are currently enrolled at the UO, according to Maria Kalnbach, coordinator of nontraditional and veteran student engagement and success in the Office of the Dean of Students. This includes self-identified veterans, active duty, reserves, National Guard and their dependents.
—By Colleen Schlonga, Student Services and Enrollment Management