By Nicholas Sauma, Opinion Editor
For the past eight years, the UNO College Democrats donated time and money to create a memorial to all the service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The event is known as the Tribute to the Fallen, and this year they partnered with the Veterans Student Organization (VSO) for the first time to continue the solemn event.
“This is something we really wanted to get involved with,” said Javier SaldaÃ±a Jr., vice president of the VSO and member of the College Democrats. “We’re grateful that the College Democrats have done it all these years, but it was time for more veterans to help.”
The creation of the Military and Veteran University Services Office (MaV USO) allowed VSO access to more members and resources to get involved in projects like last week’s tribute.
The memorial event started on April 7 when volunteers placed flags more than 6,300 flags for each American soldier killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in the Pep Bowl. April 8 and April 10, group members read the name, rank and branch of each service member. April 9 was a day of silence.
“This event goes back so far, I’m not quite sure how we decided to start it,” said Jessica Jones, UNO College Democrats’ president. “But it’s a great way to show support, and we know it means a lot especially to veterans.”
This year, the co-sponsorship made the event’s logistics easier because of the extra volunteers and donations two groups bring. Previously, however, the UNO College Democrats would use their own group dues if donations weren’t enough.
“Having MaV USO behind us this year really helped us meet people that made getting materials and volunteers easy,” SaldaÃ±a said. “Either way, it’s always been a small cost for something that people really value.”
On Wednesday evening, the closing ceremony was moved inside the Eppley Administration Building because of inclement weather, but beyond that nothing changed. Guest speakers included a brigadier general and Purple Heart recipient. An honor guard and the playing of military taps rounded out the event.
SaldaÃ±a brought the VSO along purposefully. He served in Afghanistan in 2011 with the Nebraska National Guard and felt it was time to get involved in the remembering the fallen.
“This event has a very emotional and personal connection for me,” SaldaÃ±a said. “While I was serving in Afghanistan I lost a friend, and I know many have had the same experience. This is just one way I can remember him and everybody else that served.”