Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
November 3, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. — Every Veterans Day provides a time for somber reflection, but this year’s remembrance comes amid sobering news.
October marked the deadliest month for the U.S. military since the war in Afghanistan began exactly eight years earlier.
As the United States mourns those more than 50 casualties, and as White House leaders ponder troop levels, Northern Illinois University veterans and the campus community can participate in a week’s worth of activities in honor of Veterans Day.
Events begin Thursday, Nov. 5, with a roundtable discussion to enhance and improve understanding about war and military service, and conclude Wednesday, Nov. 11, with the traditional service around the flagpole.
Scheduled for 11 a.m. – observances typically take place at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the NIU Veterans Club-sponsored flagpole ceremony offers a chance to pay tribute to men and women who have served, or are serving, in the military and to honor their sacrifices.
Speakers will include Lt. Col. Jonathan Thompson, a faculty member in the Department of Military Science. Dan Tsutsumi will sing the national anthem. Members of the NIU ROTC will provide the color guard and a 21-gun salute.
“If nothing else,” said J.D. Kammes, president of the NIU Veterans Club, “there can be one day when everyone can take a moment to remember the sacrifice of all the veterans over the years and show their appreciation for everything these men and women have done.”
“Veterans Day is a formal recognition of the service our men and women do for our country every day and to say ‘thanks’ to a group of people that doesn’t get enough recognition,” said Justin Faulkner, supervisor of the campus Veterans Assistance Office.
NIU communications major and noted blogger Ilona Meagher, author of “Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops,” will moderate the Nov. 5 discussion, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Heritage Room of the Holmes Student Center.
Veterans and members of the community are encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences.
Meagher guided a similar conversation earlier this year in Chicago, said Kammes, who also enjoyed a similar experience in an NIU class titled “Education as an Agent for Change.”
Classroom discussions occasionally centered on the war in Iraq, Kammes said. The other students “really started to understand” that members of the military are “just average people,” he said.
When students evaluated the class at semester’s end, “they were so grateful that veterans were in their class. They learned so much,” said Kammes, a history major who served in the Army from 1998 to 2005. “That motivated me. I said, ‘Hey, we need to continue this sort of thing.’ Ilona is the perfect mediator – nice and positive in a peaceful way.”
On Friday, Nov. 6, the Illinois Military Order of the Purple Heart will join NIU and the DeKalb County Marine Corps League in hosting an open visitation of the Moveable Memorial Wall.
The wall is composed of photographs of the state’s fallen soldiers from Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Visitors can view the wall from 2 to 7 p.m. in the student center’s Regency Room. A memorial service for the fallen from Illinois will begin at 7:30 p.m.
“Veterans Art Project NIU: Stories of War and Service” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium.
NIU veterans have collaborated with campus and local artists to create artistic expressions of their experiences in media ranging from paintings, plays and poems to sculptures, sketches and songs.
Kammes worked with artists Lisa Rosenthal and Jessa Carlstrom, who created a similar exhibition in Chicago last February, to bring the concept to DeKalb. The trio met in August with Rich Holly, dean of NIU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, and representatives of the college’s three schools.
“We’re hoping everyone will get a great understanding of veterans and warfare and what veterans go through,” Kammes said. “I was really interested in doing this; I had such a good and positive experience with it in Chicago. I wanted to do it near Veterans Day to give people time to actually create things and to remind everyone else of what’s going on in the world.”
Public consciousness of veterans’ issues is shrinking, he said, because each war produces fewer and fewer veterans. For example, he said, World War II produced 16 million veterans; the current conflict, so far, has involved 1.5 million troops.
Yet greater resources and attention are being given to veterans on campus, said Faulkner, who served as an Army infantryman in Iraq (2003-04) and Afghanistan (2007-08).
“The Veterans Club has become more active in the community and on campus, and we’ve got quite a few more members,” Faulkner said. “The administration has been critical in the increased support given to the veteran population at NIU – from Admissions to Student Affairs, all departments are contributing to this support.”
Local veterans also can receive free oil changes for their cars from 8 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 13 area businesses. Proof of military service is required; trucks, vans and diesel engines are excluded.
Representatives from the NIU Veterans Assistance Office and the DeKalb County Veterans Assistance Commission will answer questions and provide free food to veterans at the Auto Clinic, 901 E. Lincoln Hwy. At 2 p.m., organizers will recognize a veteran who won a car.
For more information about Veterans Day activities, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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