Speaker Nick Sanchez recounts what Veterans Day and military service means to him on Thursday, Nov.7. Sanchez gave his speech during the Veterans Day Ceremony on campus. // Photo by Kiki Huntington
Just inside the doors of the Multi-Purpose Room stood a table adorned with a neatly-folded American flag, bible and a single plate setting. It stood to represent and honor soldiers missing or fallen in action for the annual Veterans Day Ceremony at Western on Friday Nov. 9.
Across from this table stood members of the newly formed Young Veterans Committee, through the American Legion Post 7, representing the many aspects of Veterans Day.
Western has a large Veteran community with approximately 210 student Veterans, 220 department Veterans and 100 faculty and staff Veterans according to University President Sabah Randhawa. The ways in which Western, as a community, can make sure they feel welcome expand farther than having a Veterans Day ceremony every year.
The ceremony was held by the president’s office and University Residences. The theme of the event was loosely based around spoken word. Bambi Lewis, U.S. Navy Veteran and AS Veterans community coordinator, chose the theme because of its power.
Speakers at the event included Randhawa, university faculty members and Veterans Lewis, Jesse Atkins and Nick Sanchez.
The Western brass ensemble performed the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Lewis said she got chills hearing them rehearse and was looking forward to their performance.
She said about 50 people attended last year but she was hoping for a better turnout this year because they are back in the Viking Union. This year they set up about 200 seats and nearly all of them were full.
Sanchez, Marine Corps Veteran and director of Veteran’s Services Office, delivered a speech that had the audience laughing and crying. Sanchez started his speech by addressing the possible language barrier when it comes to military lingo.
“Vets, you’re gonna hear me share some things that are military related. You’re gonna understand the language and the context.” Sanchez paused and added with a chuckle, “and for our civilian friends, turn to a Veteran if you need help understanding something.”
Meanwhile, Atkins read a piece he wrote for Stories Deployed, an event run through Western’s Veteran’s Outreach Services, and Lewis read “My Name is Old Glory” by Howard Schnauber to continue the spoken word theme.
Sanchez uses Veterans Day as a day to remember people and reflect.
“I think make it your own celebration,” Sanchez said. “I’m not really for telling people how to celebrate their day. For some folks, it’s a day off of work — fantastic — and for others, it means quite a bit more. To each his or her own.”
Anyone can choose whether or not to celebrate but Lewis believes that a good way to honor Veterans is to wear a pin to show support — like a red poppy or American flag — volunteer or donate to a charity that supports Veterans.
Lewis and Young Veterans Committee members Roxanne Medina and Chelsea Allen agreed that a good way to honor Veterans is to volunteer.
“We have lots of opportunities if you are looking for volunteer opportunities. Tom [Buvas, volunteer and service coordinator] is helping with toys for tots drive in the next couple of weeks.” Allen said.
“We’re getting that fired up,” Buvas added. “Anyone can volunteer for toys for tots.”
Randhawa said the two main reasons for honoring Veterans is the sacrifices they’ve made and what they bring to the campus in terms of diversity.
“It’s a tremendous asset,” Randhawa emphasized. “I think they add a lot to our community.”
He said the best way to honor Veterans, especially those on campus, is to make them feel welcome and a part of the community at Western.
“Many of them are coming from significant experiences, those experiences at times are not pleasant,” Randhawa said. “When they come back, they don’t naturally mix with the student community.”
He further said this could be due to age or experience.
“Reaching out and making sure that they are assimilating, in the sense that they are feeling welcome,” Randhawa said is the most important thing.
All speakers and members of the Young Veterans Committee wished to make Veterans feel welcome at Western and to make their transition as smooth as possible.