There will be a ceremony today at 11 a.m. to honor veterans the University of Connecticut on the Great Lawn by the Ultimate Sacrifice Memorial.
“I think having a ceremony on campus is a great way to honor veterans because it’s usually done in a public space and it’s something that incorporates a lot of members of campus,” Alyssa Kelleher, the Director of the Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs, said.
The event will be held in the Wilbur Cross South Reading Room if there is inclement weather.
Members of the offices of the president, provost, UConn police and fire departments, student musicians and singing groups and the ROTC programs will all participate in the ceremony.
“It’s definitely something that brings together many different parts of campus to recognize and celebrate our student (and faculty and staff) veterans,” Kelleher said.
The guest speakers for this year’s ceremony will be U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and Brigadier General Ralph Hedenberg of the Connecticut National Guard.
“It’s always really interesting and rewarding to see what (the guest speakers) come with and what they think is important to talk about,” Kelleher said.
Kelleher said the annual event usually has a “pretty good” turnout of around 100 people from UConn and surrounding local communities.
Kelleher said faculty members have made a point of coming to work on the day of the ceremony even though it is an observable holiday.
“There are people who specifically come to work to attend the event because they enjoy it and they feel it’s important and they want to be a part of recognizing the veterans on campus and being part of our community,” Kelleher said. “I think that speaks volumes to the fact that people enjoy it and want it to keep happening each year.”
During the ceremony, a memorial bench and green space near the Hawley Armory will be dedicated to UConn’s past and present student veterans and a wreath will be laid at the base of the memorial.
After the event, there will be a reception in the South Reading Room where those who participate in the ceremony can socialize.
“(It’s) a good way to get all those different demographics that come to the ceremony to interact with each other,” Kelleher said.
The event will be preceded by a coffee hour at the Veteran’s Oasis in the Student Union at 9 a.m.
Kelleher said the fact that many members of the administrative offices participate in the ceremony shows how much the university values the event.
“This event is just one more way that UConn, from the highest levels…is very supportive of all military-affiliated students,” Kelleher said. “The fact that those offices not just allow this ceremony, but that they participate speaks volumes to the fact that it’s something that they value.”
The Veterans’ Affairs and Military Programs office will also be running its annual donation drive benefitting the Homes for the Brave and South Park Inn shelters for homeless veterans in Connecticut from Nov. 13 until Dec. 8.
Students can donate, non-perishable food and coffee or tea, hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and feminine hygiene products, new clothes of all sizes, and household supplies like toilet paper, plastic utensils and laundry detergent in Arjona 343 or in the Veterans Oasis center.
“With our community, it’s a ‘pass it on’ mentality,” Austin Ford, a member of the Veterans Oasis who served as a navy core man for nine years and physiology and neurobiology and microbiology major, said.
Spencer Cohen, another member of the Oasis and mechanical engineering major who served in the marine corps for five years said veterans today have access to many more resources that those who served in previous generations.
“They don’t have the same support services (as we do),” Cohen said. “People in the modern era get classes on reintegrating into the public…that was just not around for previous generations. You (did) your job until the day you get out, and the day you get out, you’re on your own.”
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless on a given night.
Students can also attach a team name to their donations in order to compete with other teams to receive a plaque commemorating their contribution.
“I think it’s a good idea with the teams,” Ford said. “Maybe we’ll get clubs and (Greek organizations) to donate as well.”
Ford said veterans will be grateful for any donation students can make.
“I think showing the appreciation is more than enough,” Ford said. “These are people who have nothing.”
Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @ZarraAnna.