Flags, reception mark Veterans Day

Sean Alley speaking at receptionBy Douglas Esser
Marc Studer photos

Sean Alley, who had made six tries at college before joining the Navy, decided to try again in 2008 while on board a ship in the middle of the Atlantic. Alley, left, sent an email to the University of Washington Bothell.

The email — “a cry for help. How do I start this school thing all over again?” — was answered by Melissa Sinclair, admissions adviser.

Sinclair mapped out an academic plan “that made me feel like I could actually do this,” Alley said in a speech at the UW Bothell Veterans Reception Wednesday evening in the North Creek Events Center.

After fulfilling requirements at Bellevue College, Alley was admitted for the fall of 2009. All that remained was securing veterans benefits at a time when the regulations were in flux.

Veterans Services Manager Rosa Lundborg told Alley, “UW Bothell isn’t going to let you down.”

“From advising to admissions to educational benefits, UW Bothell was leading the way,” Alley told attendees at the reception.

“It made me proud to be a student, proud to be a veteran.”

While a student, Alley (global studies ’11) led the creation of the Student Veterans Association (SVA) and the tradition of the UW Bothell Challenge Coin, an honorary medallion awarded to graduating veterans. In recognition of his advocacy, Alley received the President’s Medal at the 2011 UW Bothell commencement.

During four years in the Navy, Alley was an operations specialist and surface search and rescue swimmer. The study of globalization and global business at UW Bothell led Alley to work for Amazon, where Alley is a senior program manager in inventory compliance.

Chancellor Wolf YeighChancellor Wolf Yeigh, left, also spoke at the reception and announced the campus will establish a veterans center, a dedicated space on the bottom floor of UW1 in the area known as “the spot” near where a popular pool table is located. The University is following the recommendation of the Veterans Life Initiative task force, Yeigh said.

“We care deeply about our student veterans,” Yeigh said. “We’re going to put many of the services and functions in a central location.”

The chancellor is a Navy veteran who served as a tactical intelligence officer for Fighter Squadron Seventy-Four aboard the USS Saratoga in the Gulf War and Iraq War. Yeigh held the rank of lieutenant upon his honorable discharge from the Navy Reserve in 1995.

The reception concluded with Yeigh giving UW Bothell Challenge Coins to three gold star parents “for what they continue to do in support of veterans, student veterans and those who are still serving.”

“Veterans Day annually reminds us of what kind of sacrifice veterans and their families have made,” said Yeigh.

The reception was part of a UW-wide observance.

Earlier in the week, members of the SVA invited people on campus to help them plant 1,000 American flags on the promenade in front of UW1 and UW2 in honor of Veterans Day.

Calvin Evans“We’re trying to raise awareness of the veterans’ presence here on campus. There are over 300 of us. We want to be part of the culture,” said Calvin Evans, SVA president, left, who also spoke at the reception. “We’re not asking people to take a political stand. There are very few people here who don’t have a friend, relative or someone in their life who served in the military.”

There are about 230 veterans on campus and about 70 others who are spouses or children of veterans, eligible for benefits. Veterans bring perspective and leadership to campus, said Evans (computer science and software engineering ’18).

“A lot of the veterans here on campus are 24- 25-years old. They’ve already been to Iraq or Afghanistan. They have some life experience,” said Evans. “That’s something we’d like to share as veterans. We have something to offer that maybe people didn’t know.”

Evans is a former Army staff sergeant who served two tours in Afghanistan as a linguist. He speaks Arabic, which is spoken by high-ranking officials and is part of the religious culture in that country.

Benjamin StudleyAnother speaker at the reception, Benjamin Studley (community psychology ’16), is working as a veterans case worker under a Wounded Warrior fellowship in the office of Rep. Suzan DelBene. Studley, left, also is a current UW Bothell master’s of policy studies student working on a capstone project about the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

The 16-year Navy veteran served in Iraq and Afghanistan and received the UW Bothell Chancellor’s Medal at the 2016 commencement in recognition of his service to fellow student veterans as a Vet Corps Navigator. Evans and Studley are members of the Veterans Live Initiative.

Another focus for veterans on campus is the Veterans Archway, a monument on the east side of the sports fields that was dedicated in 2013. SVA President Benjamin Wiselogle (global studies ’12) co-chaired the funding campaign that made it possible.

On Saturday, Veterans Day, the UW Bothell Alumni Council sponsored a "Lend A Paw" community service day at the Shoreline Veteran Center.

Ben Studley, Sean Alley, Calvin Evans, Wolf Yeigh

From left, Benjamin Studley, Sean Alley, Calvin Evans and Wolf Yeigh.