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Celebrating veteran vitality

BY GABRIELLA DUNN | NOVEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Working throughout the weekend, University of Iowa veterans and local volunteers joined together to finish a project months in the making. Starting with a simple online survey and the goal of changing the tone around Veterans Day, the group has assembled a display of 5,850 flags to form one giant conversation piece.

“[The display] serves as a way to celebrate veterans, and show the connection the UI has to veterans and the community … and leave the day of memoriam to Memorial Day,” said Michael Considine, the president of the UI Veterans Association.

Along with the display, UI students and faculty veterans are livening up Veterans Day this year with luau-theme day to honor campus veterans and service members.

On a national scale, the White House celebrated the 1 millionth recipient of the Post-9/11 GI Bill on Nov. 8. 

Jill Biden and Allison Hickey, the undersecretary for benefits at the Veterans Affairs Department, led a conference call to honor the 1-millionth recipient, Steven Ferraro.

The bill is a comprehensive education benefit for service members who have served on active duty for 90 or more days. Service members are also eligible to transfer the benefit to immediate family members.

The UI assists roughly 700 student-recipients of the GI Bill. Around 650 of those recipients are student veterans, with the rest qualifying as dependents.

“The military experience is very dynamic so we try to include everyone in that, [including] spouses and children,” said Allen P. Roberts Jr., military and. “It affects more than just the veteran.”

As a veteran of the Air Force, Roberts said having services on campus has been beneficial to a community culture between military associated students.

Roberts said he has worked at three different universities and sees the UI as the most progressive college in terms of understanding and identifying specific veteran needs.

Considine also said awareness and advocacy of veterans on campus has been better than the past.

Nearly 800 UI faculty members are veterans themselves, he said, and they have been largely beneficial in helping other student veterans through their college careers.

Ashley Jenkens, a UI student and GI Bill recipient, said making Veterans Day livelier on campus has been important for changing the stereotypical view of veterans as being disabled and in need of help.

“We want to demonstrate veterans as a vital component of the community,” she said. “That's why we’re trying to associate the veteran presence on campus as students, as community members, not just a veterans. It's a lot more than just ‘We’re veterans and we need help.’ ”

Ashley Wiser, a dependent GI Bill recipient from her father’s service in the military and said she has moved more than 13 times, mainly because the military. The GI Bill, she said, is just one example of how the military works to support the entire family of military members.

“I feel like when the military offers benefits that include everyone in your family, it sort of adds to a sense of community because I grew up heavily immersed in the military community and lived on base,” Wiser said. “[It creates] a sense that the military is helping every part of your family which helps keep the service members invested and focused on their job.”

DI Metro Editor Brent Griffiths contributed to this story.


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