UAA calls nearly five percent of its students veterans, which is less than the state average in which the veteran population equals about 14 percent of adults. Although that five percent may have been unaware, there were many displays of support around campus on Thursday.
On Thursday, Nov. 11, UAA celebrated Veteran’s Day in a number of events. In what amounted to a mixed message, veterans did not have the day off from class, but UAA did sponsor activities at the Student Union. Additionally, the Army and Air Force ROTC programs sponsored a ceremony at the library plaza.
In the Student Union free cake and popcorn were available. A note on the free popcorn asked consumers to “remember our veterans and all they have done for our country,” while munching popcorn.
Passers-by in the Student Union could also pin on a free yellow or red, white and blue ribbon to show their support. Additionally, messages such as “thank you for keeping us safe” and “veterans are a special brand of being” were scrawled on a message board in the Student Union.
Yet many people were unaware of the goings-on at the Student Union. Cadet Cameron Barrows was in the Student Union Thursday afternoon and
did not know about the support UAA was showing him on Veteran’s Day.
“I don’t ask for support, so I don’t know what kind of support that we get,” Barrows said.
Barrows was in the Army for four years and is now in a simultaneous membership program with the Army ROTC and the Alaska National Guard. He uses the Post 9-11 Montgomery GI Bill to pay for school and says UAA takes care of everything.
“All my paperwork, I don’t even deal with it anymore,” he said, adding that UAA and the Veteran’s Affairs office take care of it all.
In fact, UAA goes out of their way to help out veterans and their specific financial needs Barrows said.
“I’ve heard of other people who haven’t gotten paid at all, and they still let them take the classes,” he said.
Barrows was on his way to the candlelight vigil the ROTC programs were setting up. Cadet Sergeant Kirby Hutchings, Public Affairs Officer for the UAA Army ROTC program, was shoveling ice off of the stage in the library plaza in
preparation for the ceremony.
“We’re doing it in honor of the veterans. Making sure that UAA has a part of honoring those who have served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Hutchings said.
Only an hour before the ceremony, Hutchings was unsure if they would have enough resources to produce the candles for the vigil. That anxiety highlighted the fact that UAA itself had not sponsored the event. There was also a noticeable absence of faculty at the event.
Fortunately, there were enough candles as a group of about fifty people gathered to light candles and witness a very special flag folding ceremony at sunset. Six cadets folded the flag, each fold a tribute to a military value, such as life, allegiance and service.
The ROTC programs also offered hand warmers, hot chocolate and cider and yellow ribbons.
Following the ceremony was the Alaska Native Veterans’ panel at the Student Union. The panel, moderated by Dr. George Charles, Director of the National Resource Center for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Elders, featured several Alaska Native veterans.
Among other issues, the panel highlighted an important statistic regarding Alaska’s veterans. That is that of the entire veteran population in Alaska, nearly 50 percent are Alaska Native, by far the highest percentage nation-wide