Celebrating our Badger veterans and service members

By Lori Reesor, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Every year, we set aside November 11 as Veterans Day, a national day to honor those who have served or are serving in the military. At UW–Madison, we’ve extended the day-long celebration into an entire month to celebrate and build community with our Badger veterans, service members, and military-connected students.

What I appreciate about special holidays like Veterans Day is that they bring forward faces, stories, and experiences that we might otherwise miss. They remind us to pause and to see things from another person’s perspective — to give space for their experiences to inform our own understanding and appreciation.

The military-connected population on our campus brings with them diverse perspectives and identities. Many are nontraditional students who started college later, may be married with children, and possibly haven’t been in school for a few years to more than a decade. Some are first-generation students, Pell-eligible, have transferred from another school, or commute to campus for classes.

By the numbers, our campus community includes:

  • Approximately 900 former, current, and future Badger service members.
  • Nearly 2,000 students whose parent(s) served in the military.
  • More than 120 Wisconsin National Guard members who serve our community.

Last year, I got to know one of our student service members, Wisconsin National Guard and Army ROTC member Abbey Beem, who was a member of my cabinet of student leaders. She was a senior, studying life sciences communications, and active with UW’s Student Veterans Association. She was immensely proud of being part of her family’s military history. Her commitment to community and public service was central to her perspective on school and life.

Abbey shared her story in an interview during Veterans Month, explaining how being a service member was more than a status for her; it was a lived-out commitment to community.

“The Army is a profession whose purpose is not only to ‘deploy, fight, and win our Nation’s wars,’ but one that is dedicated to public service. To me, this includes acting as an honorable and trustworthy member, dedicated to serving all members of the community,” Abbey shared during the interview. “I have always loved helping people and prioritized volunteer opportunities because they often lead to meaningful discussions and to creating a healthy community.”

I imagine most of us would agree that our world could use more meaningful discussion in pursuit of creating healthy communities. With that in mind, I encourage all of us this Veterans Day to think about what community and service mean to you. How does this show up in the way you approach academics, campus life, and your relationships? What could you learn from our Badger service members about service, resilience, and determination?

There are opportunities to celebrate and connect with our Badger veteran community at events organized by University Veteran Services this month. All are welcome to join a Nov. 11 Veterans Day breakfast followed by a flag dedication on Bascom Hill and a UW historian-veteran reflection on the Afghanistan war on Nov. 17.

To our Badger veterans, service members, and military-connected students — be sure to check out community-building events intended just for you on the Veterans Month website. Thank you for your service and for choosing to be part of our community.

On, Wisconsin!


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