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Riley Black and Gabriela Nieves study in the Veterans' Student Lounge on November 7, 2022 at Baker University Center in Athens, Ohio.

Veterans’ Student Lounge offers safe space for student veterans

The grand opening for the Veterans’ Student Lounge in Baker 363 is set to take place Thursday as part of Operation Thank a Vet, a weeklong campaign, which will occur through Veterans Day. 

With around 700 current and former service members at Ohio University, it is important veterans have their own space, retired Lt. Col. Terry St. Peter, the director of the Veterans and Military Student Services Center, said.

“The reason behind this lounge was really to provide a safe space for our veterans so that they can remove themselves from problematic environments,” St. Peter said. 

The new lounge will have workstations with printers and computers, group study areas, a game room and a quiet, dark room with no windows to practice desensitization. 

St. Peters said the lounge project had been underway for years. In 2016, St. Peters applied for a grant to fund the project but the university could not find a dedicated space for the lounge and the money from the grant expired. 

St. Peters reapplied for the grant and received approval once more shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, which further stunted the construction of the project. 

Ethan Barnes, a sophomore studying political science and the president of the Student Veterans Association, or SVA, said he has been able to use the lounge prior to its grand opening. 

“What I love about it already is that it’s state of the art, it’s gorgeous,” Barnes said. “It has really nice modest art,” Barnes said. 

Barnes said he has already taken advantage of the facilities and services the lounge offers by using it as a private library and a place to destress and connect with fellow veterans and service members.

Janet Russell, a records management specialist for the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said St. Peter worked selflessly to create the lounge, which at times, was difficult.

“Our veterans' lounge is just something that Terry has worked selflessly on that for us for six years,” Russell said. “Of all the hard times and blood sweat and tears into it, and had happiness and sadness and excitement and … to see it come to fruition is so exciting.”

Another way in which OU is recognizing and thanking its service members for Veterans Day this year is through the Operation Thank a Vet campaign, which will take place through Veterans Day on Nov. 11th. 

St. Peter said the campaign was a coordinated effort between the Veterans and Military Student Services Center and the OU Alumni Association.

“It's called an operation because we're working together in a coordinated effort to allow a meaningful way for veterans and non-veterans to close that gap to allow folks to come together and allow folks to be recognized for their service,” St. Peter’s said. 

Russell said those who have served have unique experiences, and although Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among veterans, she wants to decrease the stigma surrounding service members and their experiences. Russell said she believes Operation Thank a Vet will help end the stigma.

St. Peters said throughout the week of Veterans’ Day and always, people should be comfortable engaging in dialogue with those who have and are currently serving service members. and to not only thank them, but to “feel free to go and say “Hey, what year did you start? Where did you serve?’”

“If you see a veteran (or) see a student walking around with some type of veteran hat on, feel free to say thanks or feel free to group and say, ‘Hey, what unit did you serve with?,’ or ‘Where did you serve?’,” St. Peters said. “Start a conversation, we do like to talk about it.”

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