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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Western Veterans receive new graduation attire to celebrate service

VETS KCL 2 online
The new white stoles will have triangular ends instead of the flat ones pictured here, they will be worn by military veterans. // Photo by Kesia Lee

Western veterans and dependents of veterans graduating spring 2015 will have something new to add their robes to help represent their service.

The Veteran Services Office will introduce a patch that will be stitched onto graduating veterans’ stoles, the scarves worn as part of graduation attire. Ann Beck, assistant director of the Veteran Services Office, drew inspiration from the designs of nursing students’ graduation attire to create a new way to highlight graduating veteran students.

Dependents of veterans, those who are married to or have parents that served in the military, will also be able to wear cords previously reserved for veterans only.

Beck worked with commencement coordinator Dixie Doran during weekly meetings to come up with a way to represent both veterans and dependants.

“We have about 164 veterans right now,” she said. “They don’t all necessarily identify outwardly as veterans, but that’s how many that we’re aware of and processing benefits for.”

Although the Veterans Services Office hadn’t received any complaints from veterans feeling like they were underrepresented, Beck brainstormed with the registrar’s office to come up with new ideas for veterans during commencement, Beck said.

“I think it’s nice that the school provides it, but other than that it doesn’t really mean a lot to me,” said Paul McInnis, a junior who served in the Army for eight years. “I like mementos. I’ll accept, I’ll smile and then I’ll hang it up on my wall when I’m done.”

McInnis said while the new stoles are a good way to honor veterans, there is probably a better way to go about it. Veterans are underrepresented on campus, but they won’t come to campus because of events or new stoles, he said.

The stoles are expected to cost about $25, approximately $5 more than stoles ordered in the past, Beck said. However, that cost won’t be paid by students.

“As long as [veterans] are participating in commencement, we’re happy to cover that,” Beck said.

Since the office was previously more focused on helping veterans with benefits, Beck said she was interested in finding new projects and new ways to bring Western’s veterans and dependents of veterans to the forefront.

Amber Cheremsak, president of WWU Stars and Stripes, believes veterans need more representation on campus, she said. Before the club was formed she didn’t hear about veterans on campus, she said.

The club began winter quarter of 2015 after members experienced instances during classes when portrayals of troops seemed biased and untrue. Cheremasak described watching a video in class that showed soldiers as disrespectful and dangerous to citizens during the Iraq war. Cheremsak recalled hearing other students question why soldiers should be supported at all.

“I’m a dependent myself. My dad was in the Navy for 20 years,” Cheremsak said. “I would be incredibly proud to wear [the stole], to represent my dad and just acknowledge the veteran presence on campus.”

“I feel like they’ve always really felt proud, the students that have come in and asked for their cords to wear have always felt that sense of pride and I think it will just continue as we kind of evolve this program,” Beck said.

However, McInnis is not fond of dependents also being able to receive cords for graduation.

“It’s an accomplishment. The thing is, you have to do something to earn something,” McInnis said. “Dependants are born into that situation, being a veteran is different because it’s a choice.”

To pick up these new stoles, the office will host an open house Wednesday, June 10, and Thursday, June 11, when students would normally pick up caps and gowns, Beck said.

Beck said once students pick up their caps and gowns, they can go to the veteran services office and pick up their stoles. Students who are also dependents can use this time to pick up the red, white and blue cords as well, Beck said.

The Veteran Services Office will also give stoles to any veterans it is currently unaware of, as long as documentation is provided to prove veteran status, Beck said.

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