Colonel, alumna, and author wins Distinguished Alumni Veteran Award

By Kate Clark
By Kate Clark

After serving 27 years in the U.S. Military, Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer made a brave decision: She came out.

“I had that a-ha moment, that epiphany, and I disclosed to the investigator, when I was seeking a top-secret clearance, that I was a lesbian,” said Cammermeyer, UW alumna and author of the memoir, “Serving in Silence.” “I was absolutely devastated when I was discharged for my honest statement. Like many of you, I had always believed that the military took care of its own.”

But Cammermeyer’s story doesn’t end there. She fought her discharge in the U.S. federal court, which eventually ruled in her favor, stating she was denied equal opportunity under the Fifth Amendment.

“Even in the face of injustice, she kept fighting for her right to serve,” UW Tacoma Chancellor Mark Pagano said just before presenting Cammermeyer with the Distinguished Alumni Veteran Award at the Veteran’s Day ceremony on Wednesday morning. “Her story inspires the next generation to work for a world of good.”

Cammermeyer attended the UW for her master’s and her doctorate, graduating in 1976 and again in 1991 from the School of Nursing. She entered the Army as a nurse in 1963 after graduating from the University of Maryland, and in 1967 began serving at the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh, Vietnam. In 1968, she became pregnant with her first of four sons and was asked to leave the military.

“Women were not allowed to have dependants under the age of 16, and none of us knew how to give birth to a 16-year-old,” Cammermeyer said.

Four years later, the policy changed and she returned to the military. In 1988 she became the Chief Nurse of the Washington State National Guard. It was in 1989 that she made the decision to come out.

“The military made me a warrior for social justice, and allowed me to live my truth,” Cammermeyer said.

Since retiring from the military with full privileges in 1997, she has continued to fight for various causes, including gay, lesbian, and transgender rights. She hosted an Internet talk show, opened an adult family home, and even ran for Congress. She also fought, alongside many others, for Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

“When you experience injustice, whether in the military or in civilian life, take the opportunity, be willing to take a chance, and stand up to change the status quo, so there really will be liberty and justice for all,” Cammermeyer said.

Before Cammermeyer addressed the crowd gathered alongside veterans, families, and the UW’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corp cadre at the flagpole adjacent to Red Square, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., shared her thoughts on veteran care in the United States.

She emphasized the importance of high-quality health care to help address “the invisible wounds of war,” job-training programs, transitional services, and educational opportunities.

“These aren’t going above and beyond,” Murray said. “That is the bare minimum of what our country should be doing.”

She praised the UW’s care for veterans across its three campuses. With over 1,800 students on Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell campuses who have served in the armed forces, the UW has over 30 programs that assist veterans.

UW Bothell Chancellor Wolf Yeigh mentioned a few of these programs. The College of Arts and Sciences has an integrated social sciences bachelor’s degree completion program that has attracted military spouses, veterans, and some active duty members. The UW School of Nursing is contributing to pain management research at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. And the UW School of Public Health has contributed to research of depression in seniors, helping elderly veterans in King County.

“Our words of gratitude alone are not enough to honor our veterans,” Yeigh said. “As a university we are committed to doing all we can to support those who have bravely served our country.”

The UW Seattle’s new Office of Student Veteran Life, which Yeigh also applauded, will open in December. It will provide access to counselors, mentors, and career help.

A veterans social at UW Tacoma on Thursday will mark the end of Veterans Appreciation Week at the UW.

Reach News Editor Kate Clark at Twitter: @KateClarkUW

Student veterans campaign for free tickets to ‘Salute to Veterans’ football game

By Kate Clark
By Kate Clark

When the Husky United Military Veterans (HUMV) heard UW Athletics was giving complimentary tickets for its “Salute to Veterans” football game Saturday, Nov. 7, to members of the UW’s Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), they were angry.

Not because students in ROTC don’t deserve tickets to the game, which falls just four days before Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11, but because HUMV had been requesting free tickets from the athletic department for months to no avail.

Initially, athletics rejected HUMV’s request for free tickets, offering them a discount code instead. It wasn’t until campaigning on social media and writing a letter to UW president Ana Mari Cauce that HUMV was given 100 tickets to distribute among veterans across the UW’s three campuses. They also received 100 companion tickets priced at a discounted $35.

The RSO has distributed all but two of the tickets, which they are saving for student veterans who didn’t hear about the special in time to sign up for the free tickets.

HUMV began their campaign in mid-summer. Once fall came they were still waiting for a positive response from athletics, so they decided to move their campaign to social media. Using hashtags like #Boundless and #UWIServed, several student veterans called out athletics on their hypocrisy.

UW senior and veteran Joanna Kresge posted the following on her Twitter account: “@UWAthletics & @amcauce Apparently your student vets don’t count as Veterans on Veteran’s Day. Take care of your own house first. #uwiserved.”

The social media campaign was successful in the end, according to HUMV president Jack Ferguson, with one tweet being retweeted by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Ferguson said athletics may have just not been taking their group seriously because they are “just an RSO.” Making noise on social media and drawing negative attention to the UW wasn’t Ferguson’s method of choice.

Associate Athletic director Carter Henderson said that because the “Salute to Veterans” programming is part of a new initiative, student veterans were accidentally omitted.

“Once we learned that there was a group of military veterans here on campus, the Husky Ticket Office was more than happy to offer them tickets,” Henderson said in an email.

But representatives from HUMV, including Ferguson, said they tried for five months to capture the attention of the athletics department and don’t buy that athletics didn’t know there was a group of veterans attending the UW.

According to a report conducted by the UW’s Office of External Affairs in 2014, there are approximately 1,800 student veterans across the Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell campuses. The report also states that of the 6,000 military personnel projected to have left Washington State military bases in 2014, 40 percent were planning to attend college.

“After fighting two wars in a decade you know there are going to be vets,” Ferguson said.

Former HUMV president Jordan Houghton attributes the decision to give tickets to ROTC and not to student veterans to a lack of understanding of what a veteran is.

A veteran is a person who has served in the armed forces. While there are veterans in the ROTC program, many of them are not veterans.

“ROTC has some vets and it’s awesome, but you can’t throw them tickets and say you did your job,” Houghton said. “You can’t say it’s a salute to service game if you aren’t incorporating the student veterans.”

The athletics department also partnered with the Veteran Tickets Foundation, or vet tix, which donates tickets to events to currently serving military, veterans and their families, and immediate family of troops killed in action.

Henderson said these organizations, ROTC and vet tix, were selected because the UW identified the same organizations to provide free tickets to as did the peer institutions after which they modeled the promotion.

Despite the omission, Ferguson emphasized how happy he is HUMV was able to receive tickets to the game in the end.

“I think [athletics] did the right thing,” Ferguson said. “The club doesn’t hold any ill will toward them.”

As for future “Salute to Veterans” football games, members of HUMV are optimistic. Houghton said he thinks it will be better, more consistent, and less of a tug-of-war. Next year, he expects UW athletics to grant HUMV even more complimentary tickets to disperse among the student veteran population and hopes they provide services for the children of veterans during the game.

“We are excited; no more extreme tactics,” Houghton said. “You get to see your team, and you get a salute to your services, it’s a win-win.”

The game Saturday will include programming during and after the game, as well as recognition of the distinguished veteran award recipient. There will also be a tri-campus veteran tailgate prior to kick-off.

Reach News Editor Kate Clark at news@dailyuw.comTwitter: @KateClarkUW