UWT honors Washington’s Vietnam veterans

Nov. 1 student and staff volunteers joined the Veteran and Military Resource Center, the Student Veteran Organization and UW Tacoma alumni to place 1,047 American flags along the Prairie Line Trail, one for each of the Washington men lost in the Vietnam War. The flags will remain on site for public viewing until Nov. 15.

“We hope it serves as a reminder to the community of the sacrifices made by our service members during the times that they are called upon under the orders of the president of the United States,” said Rosalynn Johnson, the associate director for the Veteran and Military Resource Center.  “Also, we hope it reminds the community that we are still at war and many in our community have served in current and past conflicts.”

On Memorial Day 2016, UW put together a similar display on the lawn of the Husky Union Building. UWT’s sister campus put out 5,822 flags to represent the 58,220 American military service members lost to battle in the Vietnam War. UW will be highlighting the sacrifice made during the Vietnam conflict again this year for Veteran’s Day appreciation.

The organizations at the Tacoma campus — Peer Advisors for Veteran Education, Veteran and Military Resource Center and Student Veteran Organization — along with UWT alumni chose to reflect this focus on the Vietnam War, emphasizing the ultimate sacrifice made by service members that called Washington state home.

Staff also pitched in to show their support not only as representatives of UWT, but also as veterans. Jesse Schweizer, for example, is UW staff, a UWT alum, 6-year active duty service veteran, currently an Air Force Reserve airman and the junior vice commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 91 of Tacoma.

“Today, I volunteered to stick flags in the ground because it’s the right thing to do to welcome our Vietnam veteran brothers and sisters home,” Schweizer said. “From a younger veteran to an older veteran, it’s a welcome home.”

Student Veteran Organization President Chris Burd wants to see more events like these coming from the military organizations.

“I think this [type of event] can be a game changer for campus involvement. We want our members to just get out there and network with people and fellow vets. Just the camaraderie is something [worth having],” Burd said. “We are trying to get vets out more to identify themselves as part of the community, as a way to continue their service.”

The event coordinators were excited to have 54 volunteers sign up to mark the placement of flags and push them into the ground on the giant grid. A handful of passerby, impressed by the sight of several hundred American flags, also decided to help. The amazing turn out — when paired with spontaneous volunteers — had the flags in place more quickly than organizers expected.

UWT junior and social welfare major Ken Landry was moved by the occasion.

“I just saw a group of people planting flags and I know Veterans Day is coming up so that’s what I assumed it was for and I just thought I’d save [them] some time,” Landry said. “I was a little surprised actually. I know UW Tacoma has a lot of veterans. They certainly support Joint Base Lewis-McChord and service members who are attending school. It put a little warm and fuzzy in my heart when I saw this happening.”

PHOTO BY LONG TRAN

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