Images of army tanks, gas masks, parachutists and guns currently line the walls of the Marriott Library’s third floor in an exhibit dedicated to honoring student veterans at the U.
“Identifying the Student Veterans Among Us” was organized by a student veteran herself. Sarah Lemire, the curator for the exhibit, graduated from the U in 2009. She served in the army from 2002 to 2007 and wanted to change how student veterans are recognized.
“Veterans have a really unique experience and skill sets because they’ve seen things that aren’t typical,” Lemire said. “The university community should take advantage of these skills.”
This is the first year of the exhibit and 10 student vets submitted 25 photos.
“My personal feeling is that photos from service stand out and highlight honorable moments,” Lemire said.
Lemire said sometimes photos can evoke an emotion words cannot. She let the veterans choose images they wanted to represent their experience. Images came from many different countries and situations. Photos ranged in topics from a boot camp graduation in Chicago to in-service photos in Iraq, Mali and Kosovo.
The student veterans who contributed came from various backgrounds. There were both male and female graduate and undergraduate students, with a broad range of majors. Even Roger Perkins, the director of the U’s Veteran Support Center, supplied some of his own images from his service in the 1970s and ’80s.
Another student veteran, Andrew Saunders, a senior in philosophy, provided photos depicting what military personnel do in the world when not serving.
“I couldn’t put up a lot of work photos because I worked in a secure area,” Saunders said. “I wanted to show that, although we have a job to do, it’s also a lot of fun.”
He served in the Navy procuring military intelligence work in northern Japan. One of Saunders’ photos captures him singing with a Japanese man in a karaoke piano bar.
“It’s basically just a smattering of my service experience,” he said.
Saunders appreciates the goal of the exhibit: to make student veterans visible.
“They definitely go unnoticed,” he said. “There’s nothing outstanding you can tell by just looking at them, especially when it’s a fad to wear camo.”
Each veteran provided a caption for his or her photos to give orientation to civilians viewing the images. Lemire said the one with perhaps the most attention is a photo by a female veteran called “Rounds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
“People pass and are surprised to see a small female with a big weapon,” Lemire said. “It’s quite memorable because it shows how service members still have fun.”
Lemire works at the library in research and information services, and she deliberately placed the photos in an area heavily used by the student population.
“It’s a student-centered exhibit, so I wanted it in a place where students are,” she said.