Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review

Memorial Day weekend seems to signify the beginning of summer. Classes are winding down, the weather is (hopefully) warming up, and summer break is that much closer. The holiday has a deeper meaning though, and the Associated Students Veterans Outreach Center is in the middle of hosting Patriot Week from May 21-26 to remind people of student veterans and others who continue to protect and serve the country.

Paul Nicholls, a VOC work-study student and next year’s VOC coordinator, said that there are a variety of events that will take place during Patriot Week, which began on Saturday, May 21 with a hike at the Oyster Dome, located off Chuckanut Drive. On May 22, there was also a brick-cleaning event at the veterans cemetery on King Street.

On Monday, May 23, volunteers will be at Vendors Row from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. selling baked goods, and later that evening, the PBS documentary “Operation Homecoming” will be shown from 6 to 9 p.m. in Viking Union 552. The film focuses on troops’ experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is based on writings submitted by soldiers, Marines and airmen.

The events continue with a social luncheon on Tuesday, May 24 from 12 to 3 p.m. in VU 464, as well as a “Coping with Deployment” workshop for family, friends or significant others of deployed service members.  On Wednesday, May 25, there will be a fitness challenge on the upper field located behind the Chemistry and Biology buildings. Patriot Week will conclude on Thursday, May 26 with a Memorial Day barbeque in the Performing Arts Center plaza from 12 to 4 p.m. The events are open to everyone, and Nicholls encourages non-veteran students to attend. He said that Patriot Week is a way for non-veteran students to become more familiar with those who have served.

“I think it gets rid of some of the stereotypes about vets,” he said. “You see these older, non-traditional students in class and you get an opportunity to interact with them and see what they’re about and see what they’ve experienced, because [veterans] have had much different experiences than the average college student.”

Prior to studying at Western, Nicholls served in the U.S. Navy for more than six years. He spent two years living in Japan and was stationed in various locations in the surrounding area. He also served in Afghanistan and returned to the U.S. with his squadron in 2007. He worked at Microsoft for a year before losing his job during the 2008 recession, when he then decided to further his education at Western.

Nicholls said that next year as VOC coordinator, he wants to build a network of friends, spouses, family members or significant others deployed on duty. While there will be a workshop about coping with deployment during Patriot Week, Nicholls said that he wanted to expand on that next year.

“I’m trying to build a group of people who have spouses and significant others in military. I want to focus on that next year,” he said. ”I know there are at least a few [people who know veterans] here, and I’m sure there’s more. I think it would be interesting if they got together and started talking about their shared experiences.”