Salute to Service week honors ASU veterans

Salute4 Retired Army National Guard Lt. Col. Joe Knott and Lauren Kuby, Global Institute of Sustainability program manager, cut the chocolate cake Tuesday afternoon in honor of Knott’s Champion of Change award he received from the White House earlier this week. The reception for Knott, a sustainability graduate student, was held in Wrigley Hall as part of ASU’s Salute to Service week. (Photo by Shawn Raymundo)

ASU recently received attention for being ranked the 14th-best university in the nation for veterans by Military Times Edge magazine, and the University’s true commitment to serving its veterans is shown through its actions on campus.

 

This week, in honor of Veterans Day, ASU is hosting the Salute to Service week, which includes a wide variety of activities including a letter-writing campaign to active military members, a mixer for the Veterans Chapter of the ASU Alumni Association, and special events for ASU veterans during men’s basketball and football games.

The Salute to Service week is part of ASU’s growing efforts to offer more services to veterans after it opened the Pat Tillman Veteran’s Center in 2011 and offered a smaller Salute to Service week last year. This year’s service week, though, will incorporate partnerships from all four campuses, as well as many of the University’s colleges and deans.

Steven Balthazor, president of the ASU Alumni Association Veterans Chapter and veteran of the U.S. Navy, said he’s proud to see the Salute to Service week expand from just a football game activity into an effort to reach a broader audience about the importance of veterans and their work.

“The Salute to Service week is a very positive thing that ASU is doing, emphasizing the great work that ASU veterans have done and are continuing to do,” he said. “It’s also emphasizing the great work that ASU is doing to help students who are returning from war to transition back and move on with their lives.”

The ASU Alumni Association Veterans Chapter is involved with more than just alumni and has the vision of making ASU the most veteran-supportive university in the U.S., Balthazor said.

The chapter has close to 8,000 members, who all try to give back by helping incoming veterans transition into university life by working the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, as well as help them find work once they graduate through networking events and the connections made through veterans organizations on campus, he said.

Steve Borden, director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said the week-long event will help students remember the true reason why they were given a day off on Monday, as well as give context to the military appreciation athletic games on Friday and Saturday.

As co-chair of the committee set up to plan this week’s activities, Borden coordinated veteran-focused events to be put on by various deans, Sun Devil Athletics, the ASU Alumni Association, the ASU Foundation, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and the School of Sustainability, among others.

He also spoke of the importance of events like the Salute to Service week, as well as the University's help in veterans’ transitions to university life in general.

"Most veterans here at ASU went directly to the service from high school, so they have a very large difficult cultural adjustment to go through when they leave the service and come into the learning environment," he said. "It is in some ways as big as a cultural adjustment that someone sees when they go to a foreign country. And some of them feel that out of place, so it’s important to help them make that adjustment."

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center helps ease this transition by aiding veterans year-round and ensuring their success coming into the university, during their careers at ASU and after they graduate.

Borden said the Salute to Service week highlights the greatest accomplishment of the Tillman Veterans Center, which is following the portion of the ASU vision statement that reads: “To establish ASU as the model for a New American University, measured not by who we exclude, but rather who we include and how they succeed.”

“The University is committed to inclusion and access to education and helping students succeed,” Borden said as he pointed to the vision statement on his office wall. “When you look at all the groups that may have trouble succeeding, the University is committed to helping them succeed here. And this is no different with student veterans.”

ASU alumna Joanna Sweatt, who is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, adviser to the ASU Polytechnic Student Veterans Club and Military Advocate at the Pat Tillman Veteran Center, said when she attended ASU, she saw the need for greater veterans services, which are now in place.

“Before the start of my first semester I remember being in a panic, (and) I was paranoid about what to expect,” she said. “Then I learned I could survive, but it would've been nice to have someone alleviate those fears. That’s what my role now is at the University. … I love what I do.”

Sweatt helps student veterans navigate everything from unexpected shortfalls to academic and financial planning.

Sweatt said the ASU veterans services today are extremely effective, as the University never hesitates to get involved where there is a need for access to more services, and ASU incorporates all aspects of the University into helping those transitioning from military service.

“(The Salute to Service week) shows our students how much we appreciate them, and even though it’s just a week and a small token, it means a lot to them,” she said. “I would hope that it would serve to set the example for the rest of our state just to raise awareness about our veterans and how much we appreciate them.”

Walter Tillman, a political science senior and veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, said the Salute to Service week shows ASU’s positive momentum in continuing to grow as a more veteran-friendly university.

“We’re doing things to not only say we’re a veterans-friendly campus but actually doing things to make us a veteran-friendly campus," Tillman said. "I think Salute to Service week is a big part of that.”

 

Reach the reporter at elmahone@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @mahoneysthename


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