The College community will gather in the Dining Center Monday for a Veterans Day event that’s equal parts commemoration and conversation.
“Lifting up some of their experiences could be a huge benefit,” says Mike Hill, director of Public Safety, who served 25 years in the Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2011. “As we learn more about one another, we strengthen our community.”
Some of the more than 20 veterans at the College will participate in a panel discussion, along with Professor and Chair of Political Science Dominic Tierney, who will fold the broader history of military at the College into the conversation, and Associate Professor and Acting Chair of Philosophy Krista Thomason, who will moderate.
“We know that parts of a liberal arts education happen outside the classroom,” notes Thomason. “An important piece of that is learning from people who have had different life experiences than you’ve had. This event is an opportunity for members of our community to hear a perspective they may not be familiar with.”
Adds Christina Webster, help desk supervisor for ITS, who served the Navy as a Hull Technician, 3rd Class: “We hope to share our stories and experiences with the students, and to answer their questions — to humanize the military and the people in it.”
Veterans at Swarthmore fosters camaraderie among and a culture of support for veterans from all branches of the armed forces, bringing them together to share their experiences with each other and the wider College community. Recognizing the depth and breadth of abilities veterans can offer, the group also aims to recruit more of them to campus.
Reflecting on her time in the Navy, Webster recalls how people gladly tackled all manners of supporting roles, in the hopes of making a difference in their communities and the world — “very similar to a college, but with more red tape,” she says. She also relished the opportunity to meet and learn about people she never would have otherwise known.
“We were forced to live and work with people that we may not have agreed with,” whether due to different political views or backgrounds, she says. “But we found commonalities.”
“Vets do not fall into any one category or personality type, and yet people who are unfamiliar with the military and who may know few or no vets may form a stereotypical image of a military person or a vet based on media impressions,” adds Andy Feick, associate vice president for sustainable facilities operation and capital planning, who joined the Army ROTC in college and served four years of active duty as an engineer. “I hope people will take this opportunity to get to know some fellow Swatties who, oh yeah, served in the military at one point in their life.”
Monday’s event arose from discussions between Hill, Webster, and Feick. Plans to bring veterans together for the holiday grew into a more engaging, community-facing event.
“I’m so grateful to my colleagues and the faculty panelists for supporting this event,” says Hill. “Together, I hope everyone will see the value in having these conversations.”
The event will be held Monday from noon to 1 p.m. in the Dining Center teaching kitchen (upper level, southwest corner).