Dec. 5 marked the unveiling of Veterans’ monument located in front of the Bellevue College library. The ceremony started off with an opening from BC President Dave Rule followed by the “Star Spangled Banner,” recorded by an army band. Speakers included Rule; Marie Gunn, chair of the Board of Trustees; Ross Brown, art department faculty and sculptor of the monument and Aaron Malec, Bellevue College Association of Veterans president. Rule called upon “all service men and women, active, and veterans, to join” by the sculpture to share the honor of unveiling the monument.
This monument was years in the making when accounting for both the theoretical and physical creation. Veterans played a huge role in the development of the design to be captured by monument. Many meetings were held to maintain a collaborative process. When Rule “discovered that the biggest hang up was the money,” what had to be done was clear; “ … lets just do it.” The monument features a pair of boots engraved with military branch emblems among other imagery and mounted upon a slate with red, white and blue engravings of the military branches. The monument features script reading “We turn the page together not to forget the past but to embrace the future with all that we have learned.”
Brown “felt it was [his] job as an artist to translate what they were telling me into a visual language. The boots that have been taken off with reliefs of past monuments sculpted on them represents the honoring of the past. The book represents the role of the college in supporting student veterans in their transition from warrior to citizen … It is my hope that this monument will remind us all that we are committed to supporting our veterans past, present and future.” As echoed by BCAV officers Gregory Ham and Pete Smith, both of Veterans of Foreign Wars affiliation, significance is especially held in the intricacies of the piece, drawing ties to personal branch affiliations.
Ham, Smith and James Weiver, post commander for VFW post 2995, all expressed sentiments of awe regarding the investment the monument represents and the process by which it came. This monument comes over a year after the signing of a memorandum of understanding.
Bellevue College continues to make advancements in its support of veterans but still has a ways to go. “For veterans here, it is a stepping stone.” Smith feels that “this is the first step of many that the college is willing to take ” Smith hopes to see a veterans center on campus modeled similar to the Student Programs community that would feature veterans services that may otherwise go unutilized. Having a central location for these services could aid in the reintegration process and in academic prosperity.
Malec closed his speech with this message to veterans: “This is your home. These are your people. And you have not been forgotten.”