The Bell Tower only lights up in color on special occasions, and this Saturday, it will glow green in honor of the veterans on Belmont’s campus.
It will be one of several commemorations planned for the university’s Veterans Week, a series of events recognizing those who have served in the military.
There are 135 service members who attend Belmont as students, most of whom are veterans. There are also 151 military dependents — students who are the child or spouse of someone who has served.
“Our focus is on building awareness within the Belmont community about veterans … that they’re here in school, and recognition for what they’ve done, for their commitment to our country, but then also helping to build community within that grouping of students,” said Jennifer Kiev, a faculty member on Belmont’s Veteran Success Team.
The focal event of Belmont’s Veterans Week featured a talk and luncheon with former Army Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, who spoke at Belmont Thursday. Giunta is the first living person to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, given to him for his courage and leadership during his second combat deployment when his platoon was ambushed in eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley.
The rest of the week, Belmont is lifting up veterans with shows of appreciation.
For Belmont’s first R.E.D Friday, which stands for “Remember Everyone Deployed,” those on campus are encouraged to wear red as a symbol of respect to Belmont students and faculty who are currently deployed.
Saturday, veterans in Belmont’s community will also be honored at the opening home men’s basketball game against the University of Evansville, held on campus in the Curb Event Center.
And yes, Belmont’s Bell Tower and Freedom Plaza fountain will light up green Saturday night for Greenlight a Vet, a nationwide campaign to support veterans. Households across the country are encouraged to light their front porches green in recognition of service members.
While veterans on campus appreciate the public recognition, they don’t want to feel separate from the student population as a whole, said student Jacob White, a Marine veteran and president of Bruin Vets.
“We appreciate being brought up in front, we appreciate all the pomp and circumstance, but what we’re really looking for is just a college experience,” said White. “We really would like to be part of the community here and learn and do everything that you came to Belmont for.”
“All those reasons that you came to Belmont, that’s typically the same reasons that a veteran came to Belmont, so just be a friend.”
Beyond Veterans Week, the Belmont community can support veterans on campus by offering a listening ear.
“We can all learn from each other,” said Valerie Nichols, another faculty member of the Veteran Success Team.
“It’s just being open, it’s being honest, it’s asking questions.”
PHOTO: Student veteran James Jones. Belmont University.
This article was written by Renée Dusseau, Olivia Peppiatt and Gus Sneh.