At the largest Veterans Day celebration on campus in many years, student veterans called on the GW community in Kogan Plaza on Tuesday to get involved in the political process and support veterans’ causes.
GW Veterans, a student organization formed this year, hosted the day-long event, which included a free barbecue and a wreath-laying ceremony. A growing faction of Iraq War veterans on campus this year has spearheaded efforts for better resources and visibility.
“Today really is about thanking people for serving and spreading our message across campus,” said junior George Brunner, a co-founder of GW Veterans. “We’re trying to make this event engaging and show the GW population that we’re normal students, just like everyone else.”
Group members sold T-shirts to raise money for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an organization that provides assistance to the families of military men and women.
“Veterans want to go to work, to get an education, to have a family,” said Bob Wallace, the executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “They want to be successful.”
Senior Wade Spann, another co-founder of GW Veterans, asked the crowd of students, faculty and veterans at the wreath-laying ceremony to be supportive of former soldiers as they assimilate back into life off the battlefield.
“I ask the GW community to continue their support,” Spann said. “I challenge students here to get to know a veteran.”
Wallace encouraged the crowd to make sure veterans receive proper education and health care.
“I want you to get involved in the political process for American veterans,” he said. “Veterans don’t want anything they’re not entitled to. They deserve to walk into a VA medical center and be treated with dignity, respect and understanding.”
Brian Hawthrone, co-president of GW Veterans, said he was upset to find that the University does not have a major celebration for the national holiday. NROTC hosts an event every year, but it is not well-attended.
“No one can remember the last time GW held an official event to honor Veterans Day,” Hawthorne said.
Brunner said he was pleased with the high turnout of students at the event, but acknowledged that his group needs more support from the community.
“We have just scratched the surface of where we want to take our organization and what we want to see long term,” Brunner said.
“There is no doubt that we have presence on campus. We have marked our arrival,” Brunner said. “I look forward to seeing the fruits of our efforts years from now.” n