Georgia Gwinnett College revamps program online to honor veterans on Veterans Day despite pandemic
Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) staff members, determined to honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. military on Veterans Day (November 11) even during the COVID-19 pandemic, used creativity and the power of the internet to make it happen.
Greenlight a Vet is a national program started in 2015 that encouraged participants to change light bulbs to green outside their house or workplace in a way to silently recognize and show support for veterans. The original concept for the program was initiated by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. "for veterans who feel out of place once returning to the civilian world, a green light is a simple way to communicate that someone cares."
The Walmart campaign aims to create visible and actionable national support for America’s veterans and their families, particularly those veterans who have transitioned back into civilian life and are not as visible to the general public as service members who are still in uniform.
A green light also means "go," which symbolizes service members’ ability to take action quickly no matter the challenge. According to the official Greenlight a Vet webpage, veterans' "involvement in communities is central to our nation’s success."
Some 200,000 members of the military transition back to civilian life each year, according to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 2018 report. Many of those veterans return to schools like GGC to further their education and careers.
This is the second year that GGC’s Daniel J. Kaufman Library & Learning Center has held the campus promotion. This year, in the face of the pandemic that bars traditional in-person celebrations, the library asked student, faculty and staff veterans to submit their branch of service, rank and a photo for a streaming media presentation that will be set to music and featured on a virtual Veterans Wall of Honor displayed on the Kaufman Library’s veterans page.
Organizer Dana Johnson, assistant professor and reference and instructional librarian for the Kaufman Library, said they had more than a dozen GGC student, faculty, and staff veterans participating in the campaign. She said that even though the initiative is only in its second year at GGC, other colleges around the country have contacted her to replicate her template for the event.
"Having worked with the veteran population in a personal and professional capacity for the past 30 years, I have a personal stake in veterans and their families and appreciate their service and sacrifice. That is why I try to give back and 'Greenlight a GGC Vet' is one small way to do this,” said Johnson. "It is important to recognize that GGC student and employee veterans are an important segment of the GGC campus culture. They bring a distinctive perspective and invaluable insight to our community to include diversity and leadership. By recognizing or campus veteran population, their contributions and their unique needs, we can collaborate to ensure that future veterans feel esteemed and successful during their journey at GGC."
Veterans make up about seven percent of the current U.S. population and 6.6 percent of the population of Georgia, making it one of the top 10 states in which veterans reside. The Atlanta region and surrounding counties are home to more than 20 percent of Georgia’s veterans.
Organizers want people to know that anyone can Greenlight a Vet. If you’d like to participate, they offer these suggestions:
• Hire one today. Or help a veteran find a job.
• Volunteer and serve with veterans groups in your local community.
• Start a mentor/mentee relationship with a returning veteran.
• Raise awareness on social media.
• Or simply signal support by changing your porch light to green.