By Jeff Murphy, November 6, 2019
WARRENSBURG, MO – With a goal to collect food items for individuals in need, all military veterans at the University of Central Missouri and in the local community are invited to participate in the Veterans Engaging Through Service (VETS) Ruck March Monday, Nov. 11 at UCM.
According to Kenneth Wall, a UCM senior criminal justice major from Oak Grove, the Ruck March gets its name from a “rucksack,” which is how military personnel identify their backpacks or “ruck” for short, when they carry them on a march.
For those participating in the upcoming event, one goal is to fill the rucksacks with items for donation to the Campus Cupboard. This university-operated facility is located in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, and provides food for UCM students and employees who are in need.
“Veterans can bring non-perishable food and toiletries in their rucks to the event,” Wall said. “We are collecting donations outside the Military and Veterans Success Center, located on the lower level of the Elliott Student Union. We also have donation cans at Bi-Lo Country Mart and CashSaver in Warrensburg. We will bring these items for veterans to fill their rucks if they were unable to bring items themselves.”
The Ruck March will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on Veterans Day with the 1.5-mile route starting at the UCM quadrangle flagpole. The route will take walkers north on Holden street, where the group will stop at the Johnson County Courthouse, then travel north to Shepard Park, and south on College Street back to UCM. It will end at the Campus Cupboard, where items collected by the marchers and through donations prior to the event, will become available to help UCM students and families who are struggling financially.
The Ruck March is open to all UCM student, faculty and staff veterans, local community veterans and all supporters. UCM’s food service provider, Sodexo, will sponsor lunch for veterans, immediately following the walk.
The UCM Student Veterans Organization (SVO) is coordinating the event. Wall and another student member of the group, Jim Ferguson, a senior engineering technology major who resides in Holden, are providing leadership. They have been working with Chris Stockdale, associate dean of the College of Education and faculty advisor to the SVO.
“I think this is a great example of a student led initiative,” Stockdale said. “These students have taken it upon themselves to organize this event, and I’m proud of what they have done.”
He said one of the purposes of the event is to help call attention to the number of veterans who comprise the university community, and who bring valuable skills to the workplace and the classroom. It reminds veterans who are used to serving their country that they do not have to stop their good work after separating from the military.
“There’s a lot of efforts to reconnect veterans to service because they are people called to serve,” Stockdale remarked. “Their service did not conclude the day they took off their uniform.”
Wall said the “Overall goal for the UCM Student Veterans Organization is to bring the veterans community together. What better way to bring everyone together than some community service?”
In addition to meeting that objective, SVO and the VETS Ruck March could raise awareness of the number of veterans who are on the UCM campus. This comprises about 10 percent of the university’s student body and about 20 percent of its faculty and staff, Stockdale said. This contributes to the university’s reputation as a military friendly institution.