Veterans Day Warrior Walk
Event offers support, appreciation for those who served
MARQUETTE — For many civilians, it can be difficult to fully grasp and appreciate what veterans have experienced during war, deployment or even basic training.
To foster a sense of community and spread awareness of what veterans face, around 30 veterans and civilians participated in the Veterans Day Warrior Walk organized by event co-facilitators Leslie Kovar and Brian Lingle, Michigan State University graduate students who both are pursuing master’s of social work degrees with combat veteran certifications.
The walk began around 9 a.m. Monday at the Northern Michigan University Superior Dome and ended at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.
Participants had the option to walk with weighted rucksacks provided by the NMU ROTC and were also encouraged to bring their own backpacks, some filled with donations for the Jacobetti Home.
“We weighted the rucksacks down to try to symbolize some of the physical hardships that veterans face when deployed or even in training — at least a small fraction of this hardship,” Kovar said.
It was the first time the walk was ever held, Kovar said, noting organizers wanted to hold the walk to help civilians “share the burden of war” that veterans carry.
“To share the burden of war means asking ourselves as civilians or family/friends of veterans what we can do to support them more than simply saying, ‘Thank you for your service,'” Kovar said in an email. “This statement has good intentions; however, what many civilians don’t realize is that for many veterans hearing that phrase makes them uncomfortable. I don’t really think that civilians always have a good sense of what they’re thanking a veteran for or what that veteran experienced or had to do during combat or war.”
The event also aimed to educate the public on the experiences of veterans while giving veterans a chance to tell their stories, she said.
“Even sitting down with a veteran and asking him/her to share his/her story goes much further in them recognizing the appreciation that we have for their service,” Kovar said. “I think that the experience scratched the surface of encouraging people to start to recognize veterans’ issues on more than just Veterans Day when we simply say, ‘Thank you.’ It gave some insight into what we can all do to share in the burden of war with them so they feel less isolated and have more of a sense of belonging with their communities.”
The walk was developed as a class assignment for a course in the combat veterans certification program through MSU, she said, but “snowballed into something much greater” that organizers hope will become an annual event.
“We really want to educate the community on veterans’ issues and how we can break down the walls between veterans and civilians so that they feel better supported in their transition home and through their various obstacles — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Kovar said.
Kovar encourages interested parties to look into the combat veterans certification program offered through MSU, as it “is the only program of its kind in the nation and takes an immersive approach,” she said.
To learn more about the program, visit https://socialwork.msu.edu/Programs/MSW/Certificates/Combat-Veterans.
Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.