Campus veterans donate artifacts, original works to exhibition

To celebrate Veterans Day and recognize students, faculty and staff who have served in the armed forces, the Office of the Provost has organized an exhibition for Monday, Nov. 12 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, which will feature poetry, letters, pictures, and donated materials from campus veterans.

Asked to share items that help tell the story of their years in the service, many veterans contributed shrapnel, uniforms, empty cartridges, or patches. Others recorded videos of their stories, which will be broadcast on television screens during the exhibition.

“This is the first time that we’re inviting the broader University community to recognize the veterans on campus,” said Associate Provost Aneesah Ali, who organized the exhibition and a luncheon for the vets. “The long-term hope of outreach events like this is to attract more talented veterans to join our community.”

The lunchtime reception will feature remarks by John W. Boyer, dean of the College and a veteran of the U.S. Army. It also will give the gathered veterans a chance to meet other faculty, staff, and students who served. Some veterans have kept their status out of plain sight, Ali noted, while meeting the demands of their work and studies. She hopes events like this, and others like it in the future, will change that.

Deputy Chief Fountain Walker of the University of Chicago Police Department understands why veterans are sometimes reluctant to self-identify, whether it’s discomfort with political discussions about the military, or reticence about discussing their service with people who have not experienced something similar.

But Walker, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1986 to 1994, said that benefits of more public awareness of the veterans living and working on campus are worth the risk.

“I hope that events like this can spark some serious discourse within the student body about looking at our country’s wars and military from the veteran’s perspective,” he said. For his contribution to the Veterans Day exhibit, Walker recorded an interview about his travels, struggles, and triumphs during his years in the Marine Corps.

“I wanted to fight every day that I was there during my first enlistment,” he said, confessing that he got busted for misbehavior a couple of times. “Finally my captain sat me down and talked to me man-to-man,” he recalled, inspiring the angry young Marine to quit fighting the system and find ways to work within it to reach his goals. “I feel like the Marine Corps gave me the drive I needed to be successful,” he said.

Josh Cannon, who is in his third year of a PhD program in the Humanities, helped his fellow veterans submit recollections to the exhibit by running story-telling workshops this fall. “The stories are very eclectic,” Cannon said. “They are funny, happy and sad—they should display to the public the diverse ways that people experience their life in the military.”

Cannon served as an Arabic linguist in the Marine Corps from 2000 to 2005, and used this Veterans Day exhibition to describe his visit to the site of ancient Babylon during his first tour of duty of Iraq.

“People who attend the exhibit will hopefully come away with the impression that there are as many ways to view military service as there are people who serve,” Cannon said.

Campus veterans from World War II to Afghanistan submitted stories and mementos. Visitors  also can contribute names or memorabilia of veterans who are important in their lives to a Wall of Remembrance, which will be photographed and archived after the Veterans Day exhibition closes. The exhibition will be in the main lobby of the Logan Center for the Arts from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 12.