Honoring All Who Served

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A display of flags along UW Tacoma's Prairie Line Trail honors the nation's veterans and commemorates those lost in the Vietnam War.

For two weeks in November 2017, a walk along the Prairie Line Trail on the UW Tacoma campus brings one past a field of flags — 1,047 of them, to be exact. The installation, sponsored by the Veteran & Military Resource Center (VMRC), the Student Veteran Organization and the UW Tacoma Alumni Council, is a moving tribute to the 1,047 servicemembers from the state of Washington who were killed in action during the Vietnam War, as well as a way of drawing attention to the core message of Veterans Day: to honor all who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

By the Numbers

Twenty percent of UW Tacoma's 2017 enrollment of 5,185 is military-affiliated. That includes discharged veterans, active duty personnel, National Guard, reservists, and spouses and children. As recently as 2014, the number was just 14%.

Lawn signs convey the meaning of the flag installation on the UW Tacoma campus.

In the days prior to the installation, which happened on November 1, signs signaled to passers-by to expect something unusual. The observant would have seen the grassy lawns overlain by a grid of white paint dots, which would guide volunteers in flag planting.

Bundles of flags are distributed to volunteers for installation on the UW Tacoma campus. Roz Johnson, in knit cap on right, is the Associate Director of the Veteran and Military Resource Center.

Just before 12:30 on November 1, Roz Johnson, associate director in charge of the VMRC, arrived pulling a wagon loaded with bundles of U.S. flags on wooden sticks. Waiting for her were a growing group of volunteer “flag planters.” Before long, almost 50 people were advancing across three grassy quadrangles, leaving in their wake orderly rows of symbols.

“There were so many people helping that the installation went a lot faster than I had expected,” said Johnson. “I was really touched that some people who were just walking by joined in the effort. That really speaks to the underlying message we are trying to convey.”

Volunteers plant flags on the UW Tacoma campus. At left is Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, U.S. Navy veteran.

That message is about the perception and role of veterans in U.S. society today compared to the era of the Vietnam War. To Chris Burd, president of the Student Veteran Organization, the difference is palpable. “Yes, we are remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice in that war. But this also gives us the opportunity to think about how the lessons we’ve learned from the treatment of that era’s veterans have helped to change how veterans are viewed today.”

A group photo of volunteers who installed a flag display on the UW Tacoma campus to mark Veterans Day in 2017.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / November 7, 2017
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu