First ever Veterans Week aims to break stigma surrounding community

Katie Valley, Content Editor

To promote the office and instigate better understanding of student veteran issues, Oakland University Veterans Support Services (VSS) will host its first ever Veterans Week, with campus-wide events from Nov. 11-15.

The VSS chose to hold Veterans Week to bring exposure to OU’s more than 350 veterans, service members and their dependents, according to coordinator Eric Wuestenberg.

The event will kick off with a Day of Service on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11, where student veterans and campus community members will write holiday cards to give to veterans at two Michigan retirement homes, which house 400 veterans. Campus organizations like Delta Sigma Theta sorority have written cards, the OU Writing Center will be offering cards for community members to fill out, and the center is also partnering with AP Assembly.

Veterans and students can attend a post-traumatic growth talk to discuss coping methods and erasing the stigma of mental illness in veterans. OUWB Diversity and Inclusion joined efforts with the OU Department of Psychology and the VSS to host the Resiliency Lunch and Learn, moderated by Melissa Engle, LPC, on Tuesday, Nov. 12 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in O’Dowd Hall, Room 204.

Following the theme of resiliency and growth,  “Thank You For Your Service,” a film following growth and relationships after service, will play Tuesday, Nov. 12 in The Habitat at 7 p.m.

The Frozen Chosin March on Wednesday, Nov. 13, starting at Elliott Tower at noon, will commemorate the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, “the most harrowing battle of the Korean War.” Wuestenberg said holding the march will be remarkable.

A Recognition Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 11:30 a.m. in the Oakland Center Ballrooms, will honor student veterans and award three $5,000 scholarships to students who won an essay contest. Jon Margerum-Leys, dean of the School of Education and Human Services, will emcee the event, and the provost will speak at the luncheon.

The final event of Veterans Week will be An Evening with “Doc,” Presidential Medal of Honor Recipient on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. in the OC Banquet Rooms. Michigan native James C. McCloughan (“Doc”), who received the highest military honor in 2017 for his service in the Vietnam War, saved fellow U.S. Army soldiers for 48 hours straight while serving in the Vietnam War.

Army.Mil Features said, “McCloughan is credited with saving the lives of ten members of his company.” According to Wuestenberg, McCloughan was the first Presidential Medal of Honor recipient to receive the award more than five years after the end of his service.

During Veterans Week, Wuestenberg said student veterans will receive validation and outside students will have the opportunity to learn and break through stigmas concerning veterans and military service. 

“They’ll finally feel like they have that sense of community,” he said. “It’s a nice way for them to see that folks appreciate their service and their commitment and sacrifice — and appreciate them on campus.”

In the future, the VSS is looking at making Veterans Week into a monthlong recognition of student veterans and veteran-connected students by adding additional events. Wuestenberg said the big takeaway is learning from each other and paying respect to those who served.

Joseph Sparks, a veteran representative at the VSS, said the office has done well at outreaching, especially since its move to a larger space in Vandenberg Hall, Room 112. 

“The guys kind of go out of their way to do something for the veteran community,” he said. “You have this whole office opened up for different veterans — and anybody really, if you just want to just hang out, which is really great … For Veterans Week and what I’ve seen for the rest of the year, this office really does a lot to put the word out there that there are veterans and family members on campus.”

All Veterans Week events are open to everyone in the OU community, except for the Recognition Luncheon, which is invite-only. Additional information can be found on the VSS homepage or by contacting the VSS at [email protected].