Western students and faculty, along with the Bellingham community, will be able to hear the stories and experiences of several veterans at the Associated Students Veterans Outreach Center Veterans Day Ceremony. The ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10 in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room.

After the ceremony there will be a reception, which will also be held in the VU MPR, where attendees can meet and speak with the veterans in attendance.

The goal of the event is to celebrate and create an understanding of the veteran population on Western’s campus, AS Veterans Outreach Center coordinator Paul Nicholls said. Nicholls is also a U.S. Navy veteran and a Western student.

“This is a day of remembrance for everybody who has served in the military,” Nicholls said.

The ceremony will feature speeches from Western President Bruce Shepard, and Dan First Scout Rowe, a Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies instructor and U.S. Marine veteran who served in Vietnam. Janelle Marshall, a U.S. Air Force reservist, and Casi Meyers, a U.S. Navy veteran, will speak as well. Both Marshall and Meyers are Western students.

Nicholls wanted to shift the focus of this year’s event to female veterans.

“That’s one of my main missions this year is to include females into the veterans spotlight because I think a lot of times female veterans get overlooked,” Nicholls said. “[Veterans awareness on campus] should include everyone, and that’s one of the missions I’m striving for this year is to include everyone in everything.”

Nicholls believes those who attend the ceremony will have a new respect and understanding of the veterans on campus. He also hopes attendees will carry their newfound respect to the reception and understand that veterans are regular students who joined the military right after high school instead of going straight to college.

“A lot of students will come and talk to veterans and say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen you in class. I didn’t know you were a veteran,’” Nicholls said. “Even though we’re older, we’re not any different. We had a job before we came to school and have had a lot of leadership experiences.”

Phil Coomes, Western’s Veteran Services specialist and U.S. Marine veteran, has not only seen how much the ceremony helps recognize the importance and sacrifices of veterans, but has also noticed the growing support for the ceremony since coming to Western in 2007.

“The first reception I went to had about 30 people. Now the ceremony is filling the Multipurpose Room completely,” Coomes said. “It’s grown every year. People are mingling a lot more and the community supporters are growing.” 

With this ceremony, the hope is for the Western and Bellingham community to leave with a renewed appreciation and mindset for the celebration of Veterans Day, Rowe said.

“I imagine it will be sober, and by that I mean somber and serious,” Rowe said. “I hope everyone will be thoughtful and be respectful of those serving and those who have served in the armed forces.”