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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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The Image of Pride

A young soldier in decorated military apparel accepts his rank of staff sergeant as a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force. A group of soldiers stands ready to relocate from Kuwait to Iraq two weeks after Baghdad was captured in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Guns sit ready for use.

These are just some of the captured moments that pay tribute to the experiences of several of UB's students, faculty, and staff.

The Veterans Outreach Committee works to assimilate and recognize veterans in the UB community. According to Amberly Panepinto, a representative of the committee from UB Counseling Services, the committee started the Military and Veterans Photo Project in the fall of 2011 as an ongoing symbol of appreciation for veterans serving the UB community.

Displayed in Capen Hall since the beginning of the semester, the photos are rotated monthly and collected on an ongoing basis. Any student, faculty, or staff member can submit photos of his or her own military experiences, or those of family members.

"We hope that these photos really get into the consciousness of the UB community," Panepinto said. "By having this display this semester...we know that people are looking at them and thinking about the military."

The committee, which was formed in 2011, is comprised of representatives from the Student Affairs departments of Accessibility Resources, Counseling Services, UB Art Galleries, UB VA Benefits, Wellness Education Services, and the UB Military Members Club. Although the budding committee is not official and lacks resources, the members are invested in reaching out to student veterans and using the assets of each department to help them assimilate to life outside of the military.

The photo project, sponsored by the UB Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, represents different eras of military service, including images from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Desert Storm.

According to Panepinto, the photos that are submitted have an uplifting theme to them and there are no photos of combat, despite the combat zones depicted. A photo submitted by veteran Jared Jacobson, a freshman exercise science and physical therapy major, reveals his experience in the Marine Corps as he poses with citizens in the country he was serving in as if they were old friends. Camaraderie also shines through in Michael Flood's photo with his fellow marines and the people of Djibouti, Africa.

Jim Bowman, a special populations outreach coordinator for Wellness Education Services, is part of the committee who procures and organizes the photos for the exhibit. As a veteran himself, Bowman also submitted a piece to the exhibit. The image portrays his time served in the Air Force from September 1994 to July 2001 and his experiences in achieving his rank of staff sergeant, a large accomplishment after going throughrigorous training and earning the spot of top graduate in Airman Leadership School.

Bowman has seen how diverse the military journey is in his seven years of service.

"The experience of the military individual is more than just frontline combat, but there is a lot more experience that the students have and that military people experience," Bowman said.

Student representative Daphne Booth, a senior interdisciplinary social sciences major, was a member of the reserves, an active member in Desert Storm and was also deployed to Iraq in 2003. She hopes this committee will become officially recognized in order to help even more veterans on campus and help to make UB more veteran-friendly.

"I think it's important to get the word out to the public what people are doing in the military, the sacrifices that people are making, and to not let people forget," Booth said. "People are just forgetting and there are still thousands of soldiers deployed all over the country putting their lives on the line."

According to Booth, whether or not a person has been to war, when they come out of the military, they are a different person, and have different needs when they become students. She believes there is a lot the university could do to make it easier on the more than 1,500 veteran students on campus.

"I think it's important because people who've been in the military are some of your most motivated people, whether they're going for employment or furthering their education," Booth said. "[Veterans] have a lot of real world experience to offer and a lot of skills that [they have] gained in the military both from the duties [they have] performed and from things that [they have seen]. As students [they] have a lot to share."

This exhibit will tentatively display photos until the end of May, and can be seen in the display cases in Capen Hall.




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