Campus celebrates veterans

Xavier Veterans Center hosts university’s first ever week to honor the troops

Photo courtesy of Twitter | Yellow ribbons were tied around trees across campus to show support for active service members and veterans of the US Army around the world. The Veterans Center held the university’s first Veterans’ Week celebration.

This past week the Xavier Veterans Center (XVC) held the university’s first Veterans Week. The goal was to educate both veteran and non-veteran students about this large yet often under-represented section of the Xavier student body.

“I think, as a school with such a great reputation for veterans, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have a Veterans Week, so I think it’s really awesome that we’re starting it up,” junior Vice President of College Republicans Lily Hutowski said.

The XVC believes the event was a success, thanks in part to the work of junior Alfredo Mercedes. Spencer Rumley, the associate director of XVC, noted, “Without Alfredo we wouldn’t have this great of a Veterans Week.”

Junior Jeff Richardson agreed that the week was a success, and stated that he believes it’s important to celebrate.

“It’s a necessary observation and respect for those who have risked their lives to help us ahve the quality of life that we do,” Richardson said.

Mercedes is a member of the US Marine Corp Reserves and works as the student involvement and leadership liaison to the Office of Development in the XVC.
Rumley spoke highly of his work at the office. According to him, the idea of a Veterans’ Week has been thrown around for years but Mercedes was the first to make an attempt.

The week saw daily events held on campus that ranged from veteran speakers to movies. XVC acted in a supportive role, helping Mercedes find spaces and connecting him to faculty members. Mercedes noted a week was more appropriate than a Veterans Day celebration, as a week allows events to be more spread out. The week was also meant to build up to a climactic Saturday, when there was both a 5k for disabled veterans and the veterans appreciation basketball game.

The event was very well received by both veteran and non-veteran students. For Spencer, a highlight of the week was the keynote speaker, Mason Rick, who transitioned from the military to Xavier faculty. This experience allowed him to talk directly to veterans about the difficult transition moving from active duty to civilian life on a college campus.

The campus community also reflected on the solidarity walk. Members of the Black Student Association (BSA), Xavier University Police Department and more walked side-by-side with veterans in a display intended to highlight Xavier’s core Jesuit values by showing the solidarity among its diverse student body. Hutowski also commented on the solidarity walk, saying that she believed it was a remarkable success and that she was proud of the participation from members of her club.

Some events are still taking place this week, such as the yellow ribbon display. Yellow ribbons were tied around trees and remain there to represent the continued support for active service members and veterans of the US Army.

Ultimately, organizers said the week succeeded in creating on-campus veteran awareness, both for student and non-student veterans.

“The biggest thing (veterans) need is pure support. They love support from people,” Mercedes said.

Though she wasn’t able to participate as much as she desired, Hutowski agreed that the week was a success, especially due to the advertising done by the organizers.
“Personally, I wasn’t able to attend as much as I wanted to… but I think they did a good job of publicizing it,” Hutowski said.

According to Spencer, throughout the week he discovered faculty members who were veterans that he didn’t even know about. While many student veterans admit their service, they still feel a disconnect from civilian students, as they are experiencing a difficult transition and a majority of them are 24 years or older. The week encouraged mingling between veteran and non-veteran students and had ultimately created a desire for more outreach to non-vet students by the XVC.

Senior President of Xavier Socialists Daniel Bowling agreed that the week is important, but he believes that there should have been more of a focus on current issues affecting veterans.

“I thought one thing that was necessary to do amidst Veterans Week was honoring the veterans and people who have served, but at the same time acknowledging that this country does not treat veterans properly,” Bowling said. “(Veterans Affairs) funding is horrible, PTSD goes largely untreated, homelessness in veterans is enormous.”

This may be only the first of many Veterans Weeks. The organizers’ ultimate goal is for the week to become a staple of Xavier’s school year, and they will seek support from the school for access to more resources and improve the event. Ultimately, organizers intend the devoted week to be one of many steps toward integrating veterans into Xavier culture.

By CJ Ripeppi & Aidan Callahan | Guest Writers