The University of Maine Veterans Association, in association with the Office of Veterans Education and Transition Services, helped put on Veterans Week at UMaine. A number of events took place, including a flag raising Monday and a veterans panel Wednesday.
Veterans Week had an honorable start Nov. 5, as students and faculty gathered on the University mall for the flag-raising ceremony. Dean of Students Robert Dana welcomed all who came to the ceremony and announced what he called “our most expansive Veteran’s week ever.”
“If we think about what our veterans have done, we all need to be grateful,” Dana said.
Dana reminded people of the nearly 400 veterans currently enrolled at the university and the sacrifices they’ve made.
“Our veterans who serve sacrifice a lot, and they conduct their service without a sense of pride,” Dana said. “We say, ‘thank you,’ to those who have served.” After raising the prisoner of war/missing in action flag, Dana asked for a moment of silence for those lost. A reception was held in the V.E.T.S. office after the ceremony was complete.
“It’s cold outside right now, but imagine being tied up as a prisoner of war?” one student said during the ceremony. The V.E.T.S office helps veterans attending the University of Maine with support and assistance with solving problems related to education. They also offer advice on Veteran Affairs and educational benefits.
Veterans info panel
“The people that hate war the most are the ones that go and fight it,” Daniel St. Denis said at the student Veteran Awareness Panel on Tuesday in the Memorial Union.
The panel consisted of Iraq War veterans St. Denis, Kelly Soder and Samuel Martin. Laffin introduced the panel and passed around a petition to make Veterans Day an official holiday at UMaine.
According to the panelists, post-military integration into student life is difficult.
“It’s not like you’re just switching jobs,” said Soder, a former Navy corpsman.
“I would say it took me about two to three years before I finally was able to adjust to civilian life to a point where I was able to make meaningful friendships,” said Martin, a former Marine.
“When I got out in 2009, I hadn’t written an essay. I hadn’t done a lot of basic algebra, basic geometry,” St. Denis said.
The veterans said the transition into student life at UMaine is easier than it used to be, with programs like the UMaine Veterans Association, which provides services to recently discharged soldiers who are attending the university.
Students, veterans and faculty gathered at a reception in the Coe Room to show their support and learn more about veterans in student life.
“When I came here four years ago there was no veterans club. Everything’s come a really long way in the last four years, and I have to applaud everyone here for that, because it’s helped a lot,” Soder said.
All of the veterans said they are still adjusting to student life.
Bud Walkup, an education specialist at the Student Wellness Resource Center, asked the veterans how they felt about anti-war protests and students holding up anti-war posters.
St. Denis described a situation from his freshman year where he saw a poster on the boards just outside the Union. The poster read “Bring Our Heroes Home” and showed coffins, draped in flags, coming off a military cargo plane.
“I didn’t like it. I ripped it down. I didn’t like the display. I thought it was disrespectful,” St. Denis said. “I don’t think our fallen brothers and sister should be portrayed in that way… I lost a lot of friends overseas. How did I not know that could have been one of them.”
The panelists said there are questions you can and can’t ask a veteran.
“Don’t ask us if we’ve killed anybody,” said St. Denis.
“There’s a time and place [a veteran] may open up to you, but if you’re going to ask someone a personal question, you don’t do it in public,” said Martin.
The panelists thanked everyone for coming and told attendees to take another slice of pizza. There was more free pizza at the event than everyone in the room could eat. Orono House of Pizza donated more than double the boxes originally ordered for the event.CORRECTION:
A previous version of this article state Kelly Soder was a Navy officer when she is a Navy corpsman.