Ferris State University Students Vow to Support Soldiers
“And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
By Cecilia M. Orphan, American Democracy Project
The sixteen students from Ferris State University were worried. They were worried about the wounded veterans of foreign wars. They were worried about how well these soldiers were being supported and they were also worried that many Americans had forgotten their sacrifices. So they decided to do something to show veterans that they are appreciated and that there are students in Big Rapids, Michigan who are grateful for their service. In January of this year, these students traveled to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC to deliver the over $10,000 they had raised to support healing veterans. More importantly, though, these students built relationships with the men and women who have given so much for our country.
The students were interviewed after returning to Big Rapids and they reported being inspired by their visits with the servicemen and women of Walter Reed. One student said his felt “duty to support the soldiers” of foreign wars had only grown after his visit to Walter Reed. The students accumulated the $10,000 donation to Walter Reed during a two-year, student-led campaign to raise awareness of and support for returning veterans. The large donation is symbolic of the level of appreciation the students feel for the service of the veterans being treated at Walter Reed. The students were inspired in one of their political science courses by their professor Christine Bailey to lead this campaign. In addition to offering friendship and financial support, the students hope to show their solidarity with returning soldiers. Additionally, the students had the opportunity to meet with Michigan senators to make the case for better support of returning veterans.
“The purpose is to show our appreciation to the soldiers of what’s been done for our country…We’re just a bunch of college students but through Professor Bailey’s help we’ve been shown that we can make a difference. The most important people to us are our wounded soldiers.” – John Lyons, Student, Ferris State
This story is illustrative of what is possible when students are empowered to engage in complex and challenging social issues. The question of how to reintegrate returning vets into society is one that continues to challenge and at times perplex governmental officials, higher education, and everyday citizens. Too often our returning soldiers are not well-integrated into society and they feel isolated and disconnected while they are attempting to heal both their visible and invisible combat wounds. Hopefully other citizens will be inspired by projects like the one led by Dr. Bailey’s students to bind together with our servicemen and women to show meaningful solidarity and support for their incredible sacrifices.
The students have received considerable local media attention and were named as the most interesting citizens of the week by their local ABC News syndicate. In fact the students were named by the local NBC station as “Persons of the Week” for their work with wounded veterans.
To read more about this project, please visit these websites:
I hope more campuses in the ADP Network will consider what types of projects and initiatives they might undertake to show support of and solidarity with returning veterans. If you have any additional questions about the Ferris State project, please email Christine Bailey.
What has your campus done to support current and returning soldiers?