WMU business students to continue service project to honor veterans

contact: Alyssa Gapske
| WMU News
Photo of students cleaning headstones at Fort Custer National Cemetery.

WMU students clean headstones in an earlier day of service at Fort Custer National Cemetery.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—More than 300 students from Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business will be paying their respects to veterans by participating in the college’s third annual community service project at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta.

In preparation for Veterans Day, the students will clean nearly 4,000 headstones from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 31. The group represents 14 sections of the college's First-Year Experience course with course instructors and faculty of the college leading students in the project. Veterans Day is Wednesday, Nov. 11.

The Project

Students in the course attend an informational session before the trip to learn more about the history of Fort Custer and the significance of the project.

"It is important for students to understand the impact they have on families of veterans around the country and to recognize the sacrifices service members made for our country," says First-Year Experience instructor and project co-leader Paul Hildenbrand.

Savanna Everett, a junior in the food and consumer packaged goods marketing program and co-facilitator of the First Year Experience program, has participated in the project since its first year and knows first-hand the impact the project has on the community and students.

"You never know the impact you make when you first start something, but the thoughtfulness and love we received from the families of those who are buried there means so much to me," she says. "I come from a big military family, and seeing hundreds of students and staff take time out of their busy schedules to clean the headstones is an important way to recognize the sacrifices these individuals made for our country."

About First-Year Experience

First-Year Experience programs, which encompass New Student Orientation, Fall Welcome, Transfer Student Services and the First-Year Seminar course, were introduced in 2005 to make the transition to college easier for incoming students and help them have a successful first year.

"This project is not only meaningful for the community, but it also helps first-year students learn about the community and build relationships with other students," says Tomika Griffin-Brown, First-Year Experience instructor and project co-leader.  "It's important that they learn the significance of being an active member of the community both on and off campus."

About Fort Custer

Fort Custer was named after Gen. George Armstrong Custer, a native of Michigan. The original Camp Custer was built in 1917 on 130 parcels of land, mainly small farms leased to the government by the local Chamber of Commerce as part of the military mobilization for World War I.

The establishment of Fort Custer Post Cemetery took place on Sept. 18, 1943, with the first interment. As early as the 1960s, local politicians and veterans organizations advocated for the establishment of a national cemetery at Fort Custer.

The Fort Custer site, located midway between Chicago and Detroit, was the Department of Veterans Affairs' choice for the Region V national cemetery. Congress created Fort Custer National Cemetery in September 1981.

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