The University of Maine’s annual Veterans’ Week culminated Friday with a celebratory flag raising on the University Mall and an ensuing barbeque at the Martin Luther King Memorial Plaza, which offered live music provided by the UMaine Veterans Education and Transition Services (V.E.T.S). Friday’s events, and those of the previous three days were coordinated by representatives of the University’s two veterans’ service providers and were intended to both educate students and faculty on the challenges faced by student-veterans and raise funding for veterans’ events on campus.
Veterans’ Week began officially on Tuesday, Nov. 12, with a bake sale in the Memorial Union organized by the UMaine Veterans Association, with proceeds being used to benefit other veteran-based events. Later in the same day, faculty in the Office of Veterans’ Education and Transition Services, together with employees of UMaine’s Student Life, were able to host an hour of ‘Green Zone Training,’ an educational program designed to inform students and faculty of the common concerns faced by student veterans and the ways in which such concerns may be properly addressed.
Tony Llerena, the associate director for UMaine’s V.E.T.S. office and its certifying official, explained to the Maine Campus his goals in providing this program.
“Green Zone training is for faculty, staff and students that wish to learn more about the student veteran experience,” Llerena said. “It’s goals are to train members of the UMaine community to know more about the issues and concerns faced by student veterans and to identify individuals who are available to assist this population. These individuals are not expected to be experts who can ‘solve problems.’ They are individuals who can lend a sympathetic ear and help the student veteran identify and connect with the appropriate resources.”
On Wednesday, the documentary film “Project 22,” which addresses the topics of veteran suicide and post-traumatic stress was shown from 3-5 p.m. in the Memorial Union. Named for the approximate number of veteran suicides that occur each day, Project 22 was filmed and directed by two returning Iraq War veterans who traversed the country together, interviewing their fellow service members on the often acutely discussed topic.
“The V.E.T.S office and UMaine Student Life have been hosting Veterans Week at UMaine for about 10 years now,” Llerena explained. “Our first goal is to educate the campus community. Our next goal is to celebrate and honor our student veterans. We’ve hosted a community BBQ and flag raising ceremony to recognize our student veteran community that has grown over the past several years. Community veteran organizations like the VFW and Legion are welcomed as part of our inclusive veteran community outreach.”
A group of five cadets and midshipmen from UMaine’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and Naval ROTC programs performed Friday’s ceremonial flag raising at 11:30 a.m., after which the President of UMaine’s Veterans’ Association Kristy Howarth and UMaine’s Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Robert Dana spoke on the debt that all Americans owe to those in the military. Howarth is a combat veteran and spoke to recognize those who had also experienced combat. A group of nearly 50 student and faculty spectators then gathered amid the grills and tables on the M.L.K. Plaza for an hour of lunch, camaraderie and conversation. Lieutenant Colonel and Professor of Military Science Michael Davis commented afterward to the Maine Campus on both the ceremony itself and the relationship his ROTC program has with the University’s V.E.T.S. Office.
“The Army and Navy ROTC Programs have the distinct honor every year of raising the American and POW flag in support of Veteran’s week here at UMaine,” Davis said. “This important tradition links these future officers to the value of honoring those that came before them and inculcating them in the military tradition. Our programs look for every opportunity to partner with the University of Maine Veterans Affairs and Veteran’s Office to build that rapport and create a bond that will bind these future leaders to the profession of arms.”
More information on the University’s Veterans’ Education and Transition Services can be found by contacting Tony Llerena at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting its office in Room 143 of the Memorial Union.