Cheering on our graduating veterans

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 I love what you might call the “awards season” toward the end of the school year, when we recognize accomplishments and celebrate graduating students. And one of my favorite events of the season is when we honor students who are military veterans. 

I recently presented my challenge coin to student veterans at a ceremony where they also received their Student Veterans Association challenge coin and stole declaring their branch of the military, which they drape over their robe at commencement. 

As a Navy veteran, I not only have military service in common with them, but we share the experience of going back to college. And I know it’s not an easy transition from the regimented life to academia. 

As proud as I am of our veterans, I’m also thankful to their family members. I know from personal experience our journeys could not be complete without them. 

Veterans make up about five percent of our student body. While this number is not as high as some other institutions, I feel our student veterans here are more engaged. It’s a real community. There’s a special connection among our student veterans. 

After we watch our grads walk across the commencement stage at Safeco Field, we’ll continue working with the hundreds of veterans on campus. Next fall we’re implementing the recommendation of a Veterans Life Initiative task force to open a resource center in UW1. It will be a place for veterans to connect to services and find a new sense of camaraderie.