When Ken Barrett came to the University of Oregon for his freshman year as a veteran who served 10 years with the National Guard, he saw the Student Veteran Center in the EMU and decided to check it out. He connected with a peer advisor who was able to show him around campus.
“For me, I immediately had some place to go on campus,” Barrett said.
For student veterans and dependents of military members, transitioning into university life after service can present a new challenge. That’s why the Student Veterans Center offers a place for UO’s 450 veterans or military-affiliated students to connect with peers and resources that make the transition easier.
“Even I didn’t know how much I needed the community,” said Barrett, now a junior and the finance officer and meeting coordinator for the Veterans and Families Student Association. “It’s a bit easier when you’ve got somewhere to go and people to talk to.”
In the upcoming week, the Student Veterans Center and VFSA, in partnership with other student organizations, will be hosting Veterans Appreciation Week.
Each day of the week, there will be a different activity or event to honor veterans, raise awareness and give back to veterans in the community.
The week kicks off with the Veterans Day Ceremony and Reception on Monday, Nov. 12. The event is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the EMU Ballroom and will feature speakers John Ruiz, the Eugene City Manager and a retired Army member, and Rosa Merrill, a junior and the president of VFSA.
Merrill is not a veteran, but her mother served for 18 years as a supply sergeant with the Army. She grew up as a “military brat,” she said, and as a dependent, Merrill wants to ensure that other military-affiliated dependents are aware of the benefits available to them through the university.
“Some people don’t realize that it [is] hard for family members knowing that their veteran family member is deployed and don’t know if they’re coming back,” Merrill said. “I’m just bringing my story into the speech, which I’m very excited for.”
For Merrill, Veterans Day is about spending time with family members and utilizing discounts offered for veteran families at local restaurants.
Barrett agreed, saying small gestures such as discounts at restaurants and showing gratitude toward veterans “feels really supportive.”
“A lot of people have veterans in their family, and they want to thank them but don’t always get the chance or the opportunity,” said Barrett. “Sometimes maybe it’s a little awkward to cold call a family member on Veterans Day, so it’s a way to recognize those that are near you or anyone in general.”
Throughout the week, the Veterans Center will hold a cold-weather gear and clothing drive to benefit local homeless veterans through St. Vincent de Paul’s support services for veteran families.
Other activities include a push-up challenge called Protect the 22, in which students are invited to try to do 22 push-ups. The challenge aims to bring awareness to the fact that in the U.S., 22 veterans commit suicide every day. According to Lane County Public Health, one in four suicides that occur in Lane County is a veteran.
The rest of the week includes a lunch for veterans and ROTC cadets, a Vetsgiving and a free burrito bar hosted by the Veterans Center. Additionally, the center is asking that people wear red on Fridays throughout the month for “Remember Everyone Deployed.”
For a complete list of events or more information on the Veterans Center, VFSA or resources for veteran and military-affiliated students, visit dos.uoregon.edu/veterans.