Southern Indiana Remembers 9/11

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN INDIANA

Project partners: 

The local chapter of the American Red Cross and other organizations who coordinate responders are helping identify people from our region who served in the aftermath of the attacks in 2001.  We are also working with the ROTC program on our campus, Vincennes University ROTC, veterans programs at University of Evansville and Ivy Tech Community College, regional veteran’s affairs agencies, and veteran’s organizations to bring together those who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  USI has an active Student Veterans Association and Veterans Affairs Office, assisting the 235 veterans we have on campus as students.  Evansville’s VFW Post 1114, located near our campus, is the largest chapter in the country. Evansville is also the site of several regional veterans’ treatment programs. Another key partner is an active Veterans For Peace chapter that includes leadership from USI faculty members who are veterans. These organizations will be our partners in this endeavor, and they will assist with networking, project promotion, and volunteer recruitment.  Through an ongoing partnership with Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, K-12 students from the local afterschool programs will also participate in the service projects.

Community need/challenge:

Community reintegration of military personnel and their families is the key community challenge addressed by this project; an issue that is now being stressed by the military and veterans groups.  We have seen evidence that our community has been impacted by the need to serve. There are military units in the region, such as the first armored division, that have been deployed as many as five times, many members more than once, and many for extended deployments. This project will honor those who served, and bring attention to the need to ease their reintegration into society. Veterans bring back their experiences from other countries. We will provide a format for them and their family members to tell their stories in ways that can be shared with our community.

Commemorating the losses of September 11th and honoring responders:

USI’s Service Learning Program will host an afternoon reception/cook-out on September 11, 2011, to honor those from our region who responded to the attacks in 2001, as well as those who subsequently served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Honorees, and the family members who supported them, will be given mementos, such as yellow ribbons, flags, and other items.  We want to draw attention to the incredible sacrifices that were made in 2001, and want USI students to feel connected to veterans and responders after the attacks, understand the importance of serving our country, and give back to those who have given so much.

Our 9/11 remembrance will include the presentation of the colors by ROTC cadets; food and refreshments; music (including taps and bagpipes); and speakers who will discuss the events (and their aftermath) and suggest ways the community can help.  We will invite one of our local 9/11 responders to speak, and also a representative from our Student Veterans Association.  An art display will be mounted to coincide with the remembrance and reception.  Local artist Charles Wilke, a World War II veteran and active VFW Post member, paints large pictures of war scenes, and recently did one around 9/11 that connects with those in military service.  Activities with K-12 after-school programs will include storytelling and speakers, along with service projects.  This is the first of many events we will do this academic year (many of them occurring in the spring) to explore issues around service in the military and reintegration into society after that service, through a discussion of Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried

Number of volunteers expected:  300 – Volunteer contact information will be collected using our established sign-in system.

What volunteers will accomplish:

Volunteer activities will center around three areas:  1) development of information pieces; 2) assembly of care packages for military personnel; and 3) coordination, facilitation of, and participation in dialogue groups.  USI students will work with our local veterans programs to develop information pieces about the contributions of those who have served in situations such as 9/11, and then subsequently in the military; their needs when they return; and how the community can help meet those needs.

With assistance from veterans, we will develop a list of care package items for those serving overseas.  Donation drives will be held on campus and at community locations prior to September 11th.  It is anticipated that USI Greek and student organizations will participate in these donation events.  We will assemble the care package kits at the 9/11 reception and during activities with the K-12 students.  We hope to assemble several hundred kits.

Leading up to September 11th, we will facilitate dialogue groups on the following topics:  reintegration of those who have served in the military; the threat of terrorism and policies that result; and cultural diversity and differences in cultural thought, drawing attention to the importance of a global community as it impacts and is affected by these events.

Promoting the September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance:

The project will be marketed within the USI community using the University’s website (www.usi.edu), The Shield (student newspaper), and the Student Activities Newsletter.  In addition, we will use Twitter and Facebook pages to reach students and the community. Throughout campus, there are video screens to market project activities to students, and the student email system will be used to send out email blasts.  Local and regional media, including newspapers, radio and television stations, and magazines, will be contacted about the project.  Stations that will be targeted include all three local television stations, along with The Edge (USI television); and several radio stations (including the campus radio station). Historically, the University has had very good success in having news releases used by regional media. We will ask Evansville’s mayor to issue a proclamation to commemorate the day and to present honorees with certificates of appreciation.  The Division of Outreach and Engagement, which houses Service Learning, has a marketing coordinator to assist with recruiting and promotion of the project.