By Steve Reno
In addition to celebrating the end of the quarter and the beginning of the summer, the Memorial Day barbecue is about “remembering those who put their lives on the line,” both those who have died and those still living, VOC Coordinator Erik Hardwick said.
“It’s going to be more of a celebration of their lives and their sacrifices than a somber experience,” he added.
Although Memorial Day weekend is often associated with relaxing and barbecuing, it also has more sobering traditions.
Matt Corey, who co-founded the WWU Student Veteran’s Association this year, plans to observe Memorial Day by placing a flag on his grandfather’s grave in Anacortes. Corey’s grandfather served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Having grown up in a Swiss household, he was fluent in German, and therefore made an ideal intelligence officer in the European theater.
“[He’s] someone who encouraged me to join the service,” Corey said. “One of the reasons I do this club is for him.”
Corey, who is a petty officer third class in the Coast Guard, said he started the club after fellow student veteran Phil Coomes gave him the idea.
“I think veterans on the whole have a positive image on this campus, but it could definitely be improved,” Corey said.
Most recently, the Student Veteran’s Association has been helping promote the Veteran Safe Zone project. The project, started by Western graduate student Jana Brost, involves distributing stickers that people can put on the doors of their offices, homes or dorm rooms to let veterans know they can come in and talk or let off some steam.
“It provides an atmosphere where a veteran can come in and receive some informal counseling,” Corey said. “I think that it will have some use, but really it’s just more symbolic of creating an open, friendly atmosphere for veterans.”
Hardwick said he would like to see the stickers all over campus. He added that he hopes the program will help raise awareness about veterans’ issues on campus, as well as raise Western’s profile as a school that is friendly to veterans.
Corey and Hardwick said the Student Veteran’s Association will continue doing social activities to create connections between all vets on campus.
For right now, though, the barbecue is their top priority. Hardwick said there will be fruit and vegetable platters, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, veggie dogs, hummus and at least one barbecue.
People can come and go as they please, but at 2 p.m., Hardwick and Corey have plans.
“Hopefully everybody will want to migrate over and watch the vets’ club kick butt in softball,” Hardwick said.