For the past several years, Western Illinois University has received accolades and honors from national military publications and organizations for our commitment to student-veterans. Most recently, Western, for the seventh consecutive year, has been designated as a “Military Friendly School” and will again be featured in the “G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools.”
Western’s dedication to student-veterans has been a part of the University’s mission for many, many years, dating back to January 1918 when the Normal Auxiliary Junior Red Cross was established, and its membership included every student in the academy and training school. Special fundraising campaigns were held at Western for the war effort. During WWII, Western developed Civil Aviation Administration flying courses, along with other “war curriculum,” and many faculty members and students were called to duty. In the late 1940s, enrollment soared as student-veterans began enrolling (and re-enrolling) at Western. [from “First Century, A Pictorial History of Western Illinois University” by WIU English Professor Emeritus and Archivist John E. Hallwas]
While returning veterans have always considered Western home, in 2009, veterans and current active duty personnel on our campus had a place to call their own at WIU. The Veterans Resource Center, formerly housed in the University Union, opened at the Wright House, adjacent to campus at 333 North Ward Street. The University’s Veterans Resource Center provides streamlined services and resources in a centralized location to ensure all veterans, guard members, reservists and active duty personnel receive individual assistance with any question or concern they may encounter. Dr. Ken Wright, a Blandinsville veterinarian, and his wife, Betty, generously donated his boyhood home on Ward Street, which was dedicated as the Wright House in November 2009.
Unfortunately, Western has lost members of its family due to war. To honor our fallen soldiers, in 2012, the University sponsored the inaugural Fallen Soldiers 5k Run/Walk, which has since raised more than $46,000 for the WIU Fallen Soldier’s Scholarship Fund. While the race recognizes our fallen soldiers and all who have made sacrifices for our country, the event honors WIU alumni Capt. Derek Dobogai and Lt. Col. Robert Baldwin, who were killed in action in 2007 and 2010, respectively.
This year’s race will be held Saturday, Oct. 10 on our Macomb campus. Even if you are not a runner, and no matter your speed as a walker, please register and support our student-veterans and honor all veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country. Registration information can be found at wiu.edu/fallensoldier.
We are proud of our many service men and women, and we salute their courage and their fortitude. From Western’s beginnings to present day, veterans and active duty personnel have been a part of our campus. They certainly enhance our campus community with their experience, knowledge, patriotism and service.