UW-Green Bay’s student veterans and military service members now have their own space to be “at ease,” thanks to a new dedicated space bearing the military-inspired moniker.
The At Ease Veteran & Service Member Student Lounge was dedicated Friday, Feb. 14 before a standing room-only crowd on the lower concourse of Mary Ann Cofrin Hall. UW-Green Bay Vets 4 Vets student club President Ken Corry, who led the efforts to establish the new center, told attendees he was elated with the space.
“It’s amazing — it came to fruition and here it is. It’s awesome,” a beaming Corry said. “I’m at a loss for words because of how awesome it is.”
Corry, an Air Force veteran, explained and demonstrated the difference between the states of alert for service members — including the well-known “at attention,” the modified “parade rest” and the further modified “at ease,” which allows conversation and a more relaxed posture.
“It’s a time for us to relax,” he said, explaining the connection between stance and center. “A time to get away from everything.”
That relaxation, and a sense of place, are critical for returning vets and others, said Elaina Koltz, UW-Green Bay Veteran Services Adviser.
“Our new veteran center will help build camaraderie among the veterans and service members here on campus, facilitating and enhancing a much-needed network of support for these students,” Koltz said. “Providing this space is one way for us to acknowledge their experience, which often differs from that of nonmilitary students — and also to thank them for their service.”
The new space was identified last year and announced during the 2013 Chancellor’s Veteran Reception on Veterans Day. UW-Green Bay alumnus, philanthropist and past commencement speaker Craig Dickman, along with his wife, Karen, donated the furnishings for the space, which is the former “grad pad” in MAC Hall 124, located near the foot of the building’s main staircase. They were on hand for the dedication and were the recipients of thank you gifts from the Vets 4 Vets student organization. Craig Dickman offered brief remarks that included an expression of gratitude and respect for the student veterans and military members.
Chancellor Tom Harden also addressed attendees before officially dedicating the At Ease lounge. He mentioned the University’s Military Friendly School honor, recently awarded for the fifth consecutive year by Victory Media Inc.
“We’re very proud of our military-friendly designation,” Harden said. “We want to be a very hospitable, friendly and productive place for veterans who come to school here.”
UW-Green Bay has more than 400 individuals receiving veteran benefits, including 302 veterans and service members, as well as more than 110 dependents. Creation of the new veteran center is just one way in which UW-Green Bay has ramped up efforts to serve student veterans in recent years. The November Chancellor’s Veteran Reception kicked off an entire week of events including an awareness walk, volunteer organization panel, military speaker, veteran picnic and more. UW-Green Bay graduate student Mike Crum led a collection drive for homeless veterans, and members of the UW-Green Bay community wore military-insignia apparel to show support for military members and veterans.
In addition to UW-Green Bay faculty, staff, students, administrators, and alumni, a number of local and state dignitaries were on hand to help dedicate the center. Among them were state Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay; state Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Allouez; and state Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay. Tim Deacy, administrator of the new veterans clinic located just down the road from UW-Green Bay, also was on hand for the celebration.