VIDEO: Remembering our soldiers

Between Washburn’s Vietnam Memorial and Moore Bowl is a flagpole dedicated to Shawnee County soldiers who fell in the War to Preserve the Union. It was erected by surviving veterans and dedicated by President Taft in 1911.

Soldiers, past and present, tend to be humble and ask little in return for their service and the sacrifices they have made. Though the military is as diverse as the country it serves, veterans and active duty servicemen seem to have one desire in common: they want to be remembered.

“When you are far from home, lonely, stuck out on the front lines, the simplest things make all the difference,” said Stuart Allen, a Gulf War combat veteran and survivor of an IED attack. “A note from the world (home), a pair of dry socks, the smallest pleasures mean everything.”

With that in mind, Washburn University faculty, staff and students, are participating in several projects, both official and personal, to let soldiers know that they are remembered and cared about.

“The Student Services office has 200 registered veterans,” said Jeanne Kessler, director of Student Services. “[Our office] assists veterans with their education benefits as well as veterans with disabilities and their dependants.”

The Student Services/Veteran Affairs office also organizes a Veterans Day Observance Nov. 11, 11:40 a.m. at the Vietnam Memorial site. The names of forty seven Washburn students who made the ultimate sacrifice are engraved on the Vietnam Memorial. Kessler said the public is invited to come by to honor veterans throughout the day.

The office has not forgotten the soldiers still in the field. It is collecting used cell phones to be distributed to armed forces on deployment. The phones start their journey toward a meaningful second life in Morgan Hall Room room 135.

The members of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society are working with the Soldier’s Angels group. They are hand writing holiday cards to the troops as their community service project.

“The cards will be sent to soldiers in remote areas, areas of low morale, where Christmas cards will have the most impact,” said Kylie Gilstrap, PKP president.

For students that want to send Christmas gifts to soldiers through Washburn’s Early Childhood Education Student Organization, there are donation boxes available in Morgan Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Living Learning Center, Washburn Village and the lower level of the Memorial Union.

“I have had members of my family in all the major wars and currently have eight members of my family serving now,” said Mary Cottrell, a senior in elementary education.

She has asked soldiers what items they might like, and said that socks, canned food, dark T-shirts, deodorant, hard candy, gum, ziploc bags, coffee, playing cards, toothbrushes, toothpaste, cereal bars, newspapers, magazines, AA batteries, razors, pens, hand/face wipes and puzzle books are popular requests.

“Small creature comforts, things that help pass the time, snacks and things to flavor drinks and spice up bland food are appreciated,” said Allen. “Also Game Boy batteries.”

The gift box collection drive will continue until Nov. 20 when they will be shipped in time for Christmas to a Marine Unit and two Army Units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Students can also get involved in many different ways through the Web site, a site trying to make reaching out to soldiers easier for everyone.

“Remember the soldier when he is on duty and in danger,” said former tank gunner Brian Fontaine, a Iraq veteran and double combat amputee. “And remember the veteran when he comes home.”