Student veterans celebrated at GVSU

GVL / Archive
Cadet Brett Smith, Darrien Twomley, Henry Allison

GVL / Archive Cadet Brett Smith, Darrien Twomley, Henry Allison

Drew Howard

Recently, Grand Valley State University was named a “best for vets” college by Military Times for the second year in a row. The university maintains a strong community of veteran students, faculty and staff, though many of them often go unnoticed by the general campus public.

In an effort to recognize these individuals for their military service, the Student Veterans of America (SVA) at GVSU hosted several special events this Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Matthew Oudbier, president of the SVA at GVSU, said the “U.S. Veteran” informational event was created to inform the public on common misconceptions held about veterans.

“We want to bring the idea home to the campus that there are veterans in the community around you that you may not be aware of, and we want to open peoples’ ideas to who veterans are,” Oudbier said. “We have a number of different issues just like everyone else, and we can’t be necessarily categorized in a box. We want to break the mold and let people know that you can’t define a veteran by their race, ethnicity, gender or whatever else.”

The five speakers chosen to present at the event included veteran students, alumni, staff and faculty at GVSU.

Oudbier said the event was also purposed with teaching the public about issues affecting both the individual speakers as well as much of the veteran community.

“I would say, [because of] the fact that the country we live in sends people off to war, that there’s a responsibility for people to understand who these people are,” he said. “People need to understand who the veterans are, and how that involvement with conflicts and just having a military presence affects the people in service.”

In addition to the “U.S. Veteran” informational session, the SVA hosted a “Veteran Tile Wall Painting” activity from noon to 5 p.m. at the Central Utilities Building, located on GVSU’s Allendale Campus. The SVA will host this activity again at the same time on Nov. 18.

During the event, anyone on campus was allowed to stop by the Central Utilities Building to paint a 6-by-6 inch tile that would serve as tribute to the veteran of their choice.

The full wall is expected to include 650 individual tiles and will be unveiled to the public on Veterans Day in 2016.

Jeff Marcinkowski, maintenance supervisor for Facilities Services at GVSU, said there will be plenty of opportunities in the future for individuals to paint a tile.

“Throughout the rest of the year, I’ll probably have this (activity) open a lot more often where anybody can come in at any time,” Marcinkowski said. “I’ll have a table set up all the time so that people can come in at any time of the day or night. We’re open 24/7.”

It costs $12 to paint a tile yourself, $15 to have basic information painted by a proxy artist and $20 for a custom-designed tile painted by a proxy artist. Proceeds from this event will go directly toward the veteran relief fund for student veterans at GVSU.

Veterans were also recognized at a Veterans Appreciation Breakfast hosted by GVSU President Thomas Haas. Haas thanked students, faculty and staff in the GVSU community for their service while Steven Lipnicki, assistant dean of students at GVSU, gave updates on new initiatives for military students.

For more information on services provided by the SVA, visit