Today, Ron honors the finest among us, and he is always glad to spend time with veterans across Wisconsin. Check out this Veterans Day story from Ron’s hometown of Oshkosh:
Student veterans at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh are inviting the community to help create a memorial for veterans on the campus.
The memorial will be made of 6,500 dog tags marked with thank-you notes, names of veterans and other messages. It’s a nod to a similar memorial by the Veterans Art Museum, the Above and Beyond Memorial, which has 58,000 imprinted dog tags hanging overhead in honor of Vietnam War veterans, said Shawn Monroe, UWO Veterans Resource Center Coordinator.
The students hope to hang their piece in Reeve Memorial Union; but first, they need to fill the 6,500 dog tags. To participate in the project, contact the Veterans Resource Center at 920-424-1804 or [email protected]
Monday in the union some students stopped by the Student Veterans Resource Center table to write a quick “thank you” on a tag while others walked by without a glance. Those that did the latter symbolize a bigger picture student veterans noted when asked about Veterans Day – often students don’t realize just how many veterans are around them on campus.
When one thinks of a veteran, the image of elderly men might come to mind. However, veterans come in all ages, and many of them in their mid-20s are going to college after having been discharged.
Student veterans aren’t those who party on weekends or skip class. They have a different mindset toward school, a different kind of maturity that sets them apart from their younger counterparts – life experience.
“You’re not the traditional thinker right out of high school,” said Mark Allermann, 25. “You think outside the box, you’ve been through a lot of real life experiences that nobody else has.”
Allermann was deployed to Afghanistan with the Marines from November 2009 to May 2010, and again from January 2011 to June 2012. Since being discharged he has been studying environmental studies in renewable energy at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
He said most of the students around him don’t realize America is still in active conflicts.
It can be hard to relate to other students in social situations or transfer those experiences into academics. Despite the challenge, the skills student veterans learn through serving their country are also helpful, said Nicholas Slusher, 25.
Student veterans have strong time management and leadership skills, and they’re respectful and tactful. Often they are the students that arrive for class 15 minutes early, he said.
Slusher was deployed around the world with the Marines as a technical controller, where he oversaw the installations and maintenance of all data and telecommunication networks from small buildings to entire forward operating bases.
He was discharged in 2012, and after he earns his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering will work towards his masters degree in explosives engineering.
Slusher is still figuring out how to overcome the challenge of feeling out of place among his peers. He compared his own experience to the movie “Billy Madison,” in which Adam Sandler plays a 27-year-old who returns to school and must pass every grade level in order to take over his father’s company.
“I just keep my head down, keep pushing through it and my focus is on the long-term goal, not on the short term,” he said.
Allermann echoed his sentiment. But while he usually chooses to blend in with other students, on Veterans Day he’ll participate in two ceremonies in Oshkosh.
Younger generations of veterans are taking on roles in organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars to help raise funds, reach out to other veterans and eventually lead the organizations.
“Older veterans welcomed us in and are now actively seeking us to take over important roles,” Allermann said.
Monroe, who was deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005 with the National Guard, said despite a disconnect between those who have served their country and their families and those who haven’t, a shift is occurring.
More attention is being put on younger veterans and people want to hear their stories – a difference from older generations of veterans who may have kept those experiences to themselves. At UWO, the Veterans Resource Center has also done collaborations with classes to do just that, like the War: Through Their Eyes project.
“Those are some of the neatest programs,” Monroe said. “(Student veterans) just bring a world view that’s different, and I think that’s valuable.”