Several representatives of The University of Alabama will travel to Washington, D.C., this week to honor fallen soldiers, visit those who have been injured in battle and emphasize the Capstone’s support for veterans.
On Thursday, Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell will join university administrators and President of the UA Campus Veterans Association Jordan Carpenter in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
“We know of students who have been to The University of Alabama who have sacrificed their lives overseas, so this is in honor of all of them,” said Alex Karagas, coordinator of Veteran and Military Affairs.
Lowell Davis, the University of Alabama’s Assistant Dean of Students, said it is important for students to remember those who have given their lives while serving in the armed forces.
“I think oftentimes, if you don’t know anyone who has personally gone to war, you don’t think about it,” Davis said. “It’s important that we don’t forget what people do for us on a daily basis to keep us safe.”
On Friday, the group will visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
This trip was inspired in part by a CVA-facilitated campus visit from an injured veteran during this year’s Iron Bowl.
“He’s never been a student, but he wants to be. He’s a big Alabama fan. That got us thinking about how we can reach out to people in similar situations,” said Carpenter, a senior majoring in environmental science.
The University will also be providing University of Alabama gear to the soldiers and their families, thanks to the generosity of several departments on campus.
“I have been blown away by the number of donations. We are going to be able to give multiple items to every single individual and give items to their family members as well,” said Karagas.
The Center for Veteran and Military Affairs, which was opened in the fall of 2012, has recently begun to track those who are entitled to military benefits on campus and has identified an estimated 500 veterans on campus and 1550 dependents of veterans.
“People have sacrificed a lot for them to have the opportunities at education that they do,” Carpenter said. “Our job in this office is to support them so that they have the right pathways to be successful, just like every other student on campus, but they have a different context.”
For instance, Carpenter said a single deployment, when accounting for training and recovery time, can disrupt a student’s education for two years.
“It’s a huge life disruption. It’s really tough to stay motivated to finish school,” he said.
Carpenter’s story is an example of the unique needs of the student-veteran population.
“I did go to school here for three semesters right out of high school. The following fall, my brother was in training, and I knew he was going to go to Afghanistan as soon as he got out of training. I felt like my role was not to be here in school. I felt very inspired to join,” Carpenter said.
When he returned to school, the shift was jarring but manageable with the support that Alabama provides for veterans.
“It’s a totally different type of pressure that I came back to. I really needed that extra support I found here. It’s helped me transition back to being a student.”
UA students, alumni and fans in the Washington D.C. area are encouraged to attend the wreath laying.
Anyone who wishes to attend should arrive at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery by 2:45 p.m.
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