Veterans are everywhere in our midst on the University of Iowa campus, but you might not necessarily know who they are.
This Veterans Day, a new UI initiative called Veteran Vitality hopes to change that.
The more than 800 UI student, faculty, and staff veterans and service members are invited to pick up free, neon-colored, Hawaiian-themed shirts to wear on Monday, Nov. 11, as a way to show the world that they are veterans.
"While most of us are not aware of it, we interact with veterans every day, both in the classroom and in the office," says Allen Roberts, UI military and veteran education specialist. "Some of your favorite people on campus might be veterans, and you might not even know it."
Roberts gestures to a row of blazing blue, orange, green, and yellow button-up shirts hanging on racks in his Military and Veteran Student Services office."You won't be able to miss us," he says. "We're flipping the traditionally somber tone of Veterans Day on its head and returning to its original upbeat, celebratory feel with a Hawaiian celebration."
The shirts are going fast, according to Roberts, but there are still some left in the Military and Veteran Student Services office, located in the UI Communications Center. UI veterans and service members simply need to provide their name, branch of service and years served, and their student, staff, or faculty ID to claim one.
The shirt is just the tip of the iceberg, Roberts says. The UI's Military and Veteran Student Services in the Center for Diversity and Enrichment, in partnership with the UI Veterans Association, is hosting a full day of Veteran Vitality events on Veterans Day.
The celebration includes a kickoff at 11 a.m., with a 6,000–flag display on the west side of the UI Pentacrest, guest speakers, a presentation of the Color Guard, and the national anthem at 11:11 a.m., the recognized moment of Armistice Day.
UI Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and UI Registrar and Assistant Provost for Enrollment Services Larry Lockwood, a Vietnam War veteran, will open the celebration with welcome remarks.
UI Veterans Association President Michael Considine, a UI junior from Sioux City, Iowa, will be the master of ceremonies. Considine is majoring in business management in the Tippie College of Business, and he has been instrumental in helping to organize the day's activities and will serve as a speaker on one of the Veteran Vitality panels.
"We’re very excited about all the events happening on Veterans Day this year," says Considine, who joined the Iowa Air National Guard Jan. 22, 2010, and was on orders last year for six months including a deployment to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
During that time period, he also served as a temporary active crew chief and did a short tour in Guam.
"I think our theme of Veteran Vitality is a refreshing deviation from the sometimes somber events on Veterans Day," Considine says. "Many of us at the UI agree that Veterans Day should be a celebration of our nation’s heroes, and I think that’s exactly what we are going to do."
The 1-foot-high flags, which will be placed in the lawn over the weekend, will be arranged in the shape of the letter "I" for Iowa. Each flag will include the name of a veteran, living or deceased, who is being honored by a member of the community. There is still time to dedicate a flag to honor a veteran in your life by visiting this website by 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8.
UI student and staff veterans—as well as students in the Upward Bound Program from area high schools—will help create the flag display on the Pentacrest lawn over the weekend prior to Veterans Day.
Series of Veteran Vitality panels
The kickoff will be followed by a series of 10 panels in the Big Ten Rooms on the third floor of the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU), from noon to 3:30 p.m., as part of the Veteran Vitality Conference.
No registration is necessary to attend any of the panels, and they are all free and open to the public. Panel topics include everything from "LGBTQ-identified Individuals in the Military: Past, Present, and Future," and an educational benefits session, to undergraduate and graduate student veteran panels, career development and prep panels, and a session for military dependents, to name a few. The panels are for veterans as well as allies, members of the public and professionals who work with veterans. For a complete schedule, visit this website.
"The purpose of these panels is to initiate many quick but interesting conversations on topics that relate to military and veteran culture and available resources," Allen says. "With most only being 30 minutes long, these panels will simply initiate a variety of conversations while also connecting attendees with the people most interested in continuing the conversations."
Veterans Day culminates with a luau
The day culminates with an authentic Hawaiian luau for all UI-affiliated veterans and their family members or invited guests from 4 to 6 p.m. at Brothers Bar & Grill in downtown Iowa City.
Though free and open to all UI-affiliated veteran and service members, attendees need to register for the luau in advance by calling 319-384-2613. During the luau, there will be a traditional pig roast as well as vegetarian food options.
There will also be a free showing of the film Saving Private Ryan from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Iowa Theatre in the IMU. The Campus Activities Board, the UI Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, and the UI Veterans Association are sponsoring the film showing.
Veterans are also encouraged to wear their shirts Sunday, Nov. 10 at the UI Basketball double–header game. Veterans and service members will be honored during the game, and tickets are $5 to the men's game for those who are wearing their Veteran Vitality Hawaiian shirts. The women's game is free for all UI students regardless of veteran or service status.
Military and Veteran Affairs Student Services is part of the Center for Diversity and Enrichment in the Chief Diversity Office.
Those who have taken the UI Military Culture training have been given "Veteran Supporter" buttons to wear on Veteran's Day, and camouflage leis will be handed out at different locations across campus and at the kickoff celebration Monday, Nov. 11, on the Pentacrest.
Contact: Michael Considine, UI Veterans Association, 712-301-8024