Veterans Appreciation Week will conclude with a ceremony on Friday

To honor student veterans, the University of Oregon partnered with the Veterans Program, the Veteran and Family Student Association (VFSA) and the University President’s Office for the annual Veterans Appreciation Week.

The week will conclude with a “Unity of Commitment” ceremony honoring all student veterans in the Gerlinger Lounge at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 10. The keynote speaker for the ceremony is Joelle Rankins Goodwin, senior associate director for recruitment administration. All UO students are welcome to help honor student veterans at the ceremony, which is sponsored by The Office of the President.

The week kicked off on Monday, Nov. 6 with the Student Veteran Center, Peer Advisors for Veteran Education, and the Veteran and Family Student Association tabling outside the ERB Memorial Union Terrace to let people know about Veterans Appreciation Week. Monday also started “Operation Toiletries,” a fundraiser benefitting homeless veterans.

This was the first year that “Operation Toiletries” has been a part of Veterans Appreciation Week. The fundraiser was a student’s idea that was brought to the Veterans Program’s attention. Items donated include soap, shampoo, conditioner, razors, toilet paper, nail trimmers, feminine products and other toiletry items.

The donations were collected at the ERB Memorial Union Terrace Veterans Program booth, as well as the Student Veteran Center. On Friday, Nov. 10, the donations will be collected by St. Vincent de Paul’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families, and on Saturday, Nov. 11 the organization will hand out these donations to the veterans experiencing homelessness in Lane County.

Part-time GE Veterans Program Coordinator Samantha Roberts (left) and Team Leader for Peer Advisors for Veteran Education Trenton Goodman (right) inform UO students about “Operation Toiletries” outside the EMU Fishbowl. (Rylee Kahan/Emerald)

Samantha Roberts is the Graduate Employee Veterans Program Coordinator and is responsible for organizing Veterans Appreciation Week, along with other events throughout the year. According to Roberts, this week is the largest Veterans Program event of the year, and she’s been planning it since summer.

Many student veterans participated in other Veterans Appreciation Week events, like Wednesday’s free brunch provided by the Student Veterans Center and Thursday’s community night which included mini golf, laser tag and bowling at Putters in Eugene.

Roberts says the Veterans Program is there to help student veterans “transition and acclimate” to a new type of environment. The university environment can be a particularly tough transition for student veterans because of all the different life experiences they have, according to Roberts.

The Veterans Program is there to help student veterans find the resources that would help them most. Roberts explained that many student veterans in a university environment feel that the university is doing the bare minimum to “check off a box.”

The Veterans Program puts on events because the organization believes that student veterans matter, and so do their specific needs, according to Roberts.

Being a part of the Veterans Program provides an opportunity to talk about the issue of student veteran needs not being met, according to Roberts. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” Roberts said. “This is a very specific group of people who are also very diverse in their needs.”

According to Roberts, there are about 400 student veterans enrolled during the academic year. Without a full-time coordinator, it can be difficult to meet all the student veteran needs, Roberts explained.

Roberts is the only program coordinator for the Veterans Program at UO, and she’s doing it part-time while also going to graduate school. According to Roberts, Western Oregon University has between 100 and 150 student veterans, but they’ve hired a full-time Veterans Program Coordinator to make sure all student veterans’ needs are being met.

“These are individuals that sacrificed a great deal to be here. They deserve more,” Roberts said.

Leah Crewse is the President of the VFSA and is also a student veteran. She served active duty in the Air Force for four years from 2009-2013. Currently, she is a part of the Air Force reservists, where she goes to Joint Base Lewis-McChord one weekend a month to keep up on her medic certifications and trainings. She also dedicates 15 consecutive days out of the year to the reservist program.

“I think it is vital,” Crewse said of Veterans Appreciation Week. “There are so many student veterans that feel a bit alienated because of their life experiences,” she said. According to Crewse, because the UO is a public four-year university and many students come from a traditional background, it can be difficult for student veterans to relate to other students and feel like they fit into the university environment.

Crewse said the VFSA is there to empower other student veterans.

“We’re your voice…if you don’t attend the events we can’t hear you.”

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Rylee Kahan

Rylee Kahan

Rylee Kahan is a News Reporter for The Daily Emerald. She is a sophomore majoring in Journalism and loves late-night coffee runs.