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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KateClarkUW