Student Vets Walk ‘Proud in the Crowd’
By Sandra Seitz
From a solemn flag ceremony to the last home game for women’s volleyball, events across campus honored the veterans among us.
Chancellor Marty Meehan and the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) declared Nov. 3 – 11 as Veterans Week
, an opportunity to recognize the 1,200 student veterans and active duty personnel enrolled at the University, on campus and online.
“UMass Lowell is proud of you all,” said Meehan, speaking to veterans at the flag ceremony. “When your country needed you, you stepped forward and your service will never be forgotten.” Many services for veterans have been added in recent years, leading to continued designation for UMass Lowell as a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine, but “there is more to do, so that every man or woman who returns from deployment can have access to an affordable, excellent education,” said Meehan.
The UMass Lowell Alumni Veterans Hall of Fame inductees for 2012, honored at the Military Legacy Ball and the flag ceremony, included USAF Capt. John Ogonowski, 1972 graduate of Lowell Tech and the pilot of American Airlines Flight No. 11 who was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and Airman 1st Class Robert Page, 1976 graduate of Lowell Tech, retired Lowell firefighter, business owner and strong advocate for veterans services at UMass Lowell. World War II veteran U.S. Army Sgt. Stuart Penner, who holds two degrees in textile chemistry, was alone in being able to attend, among the eight WW II veterans who were honored.
USAF Tech Sgt. Ryan Green, SVO president, introduced the Proud in the Crowd awareness campaign, designed to draw attention to all the veterans in the UMass Lowell community.
“To be a student veteran means having experience in life. We show up on campus with a sense of purpose, representing strength, honor and commitment,” said Green. “Proud in the Crowd aims to recognize all the vets going to school – we all served together, no matter what the time frame. We’re letting the UMass Lowell community know that we are here and we are proud – proud in the crowd.”
Proud in the Crowd streamers are available through SVO members and in the Veterans Services Office, on the second floor of McGauvran. The streamers – white on blue for veterans and blue on white for students and staff – read “Student Veterans Organization” on one side and “Proud in the Crowd” on the other. A streamer attached to keychain, purse or backpack is a silent message of camaraderie and support.
Military Appreciation Night at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell recognized veterans as the UMass Lowell River Hawks and University of Maine Black Bears squared off in Division I Hockey East play. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Germain, who recently returned from Afghanistan, made a ceremonial puck drop. The first 1,000 fans to arrive received River Hawk dog tags, courtesy of Eastern Bank, which also sponsored attendance for military members stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford.
The Men's D2 Club Hockey Team held its own Military Appreciation game against Norwich University in the Tsongas Center. The UMass Lowell team, which pulled off a 4 – 2 victory, sported custom-made camouflage jerseys that were sponsored by the SVO, with support by the Lowell Army Navy Store. Five jerseys were raffled off, as well as five sets of dog tags from the Army Navy Store.
Care Packages – filled with food, hygiene items, toys, batteries, socks, earphones and phone cards – are sent to troops deployed overseas. The drive has been extended; information is available from SVO members and the Veterans Services Office.
New this year is a coin drive to collect sufficient funds for mailing the Care Packages.
“We’ve had a terrific response to the coin drive,” says Green. “The SVO offers special thanks to the University dining services for their guidance and placement of coin collection spots in the dining halls. They made an exemption for this campaign and the troops will appreciate it.”