Upcoming march aims to support veterans

Image provided by Kristina Taylor | The path that the veterans will be taking on the Champaign Ruck veterans event begins at Parkland College and ends at the northeast end of West Side Park in Champaign.

Image provided by Kristina Taylor | The path that the veterans will be taking on the Champaign Ruck veterans event begins at Parkland College and ends at the northeast end of West Side Park in Champaign.

Destiny Norris

Staff Writer

On Saturday, April 15, the Student Veteran’s Association at Parkland will be hosting a march to raise awareness for veterans in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding areas.

The Student Veteran’s Association at Parkland is an organization founded to highlight veterans’ presence and to advocate for student veterans and active members in the Parkland community.

The event, dubbed the Champaign Ruck, is what is called a rucksack march. Participants will walk for approximately 3.5 miles carrying food donations for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank in their rucksacks or backpacks.

The route for the march will begin at Parkland College and end at the northeast end of West Side Park in Champaign. The march will begin at 11 a.m. For participants’ convenience, a Parkland bus will be present at the park following the event in order to transport entrants back to the college.

The Student Veteran’s Association at Parkland was pioneered in 2008. Kristina Taylor, one of three co-founders and a financial aid advisor at Parkland, oversees the association. She is also the coordinator of veterans and military personnel students’ services.

Taylor says the purpose of the Cham-paign Ruck is to raise awareness for veterans’ issues and to help support veterans in need by partnering with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

“The foodbank has pop-up veterans’ foodbanks to assist veterans in need,” Taylor said.

Participation in the event isn’t solely limited to veterans.

“Anyone supportive of veterans is welcome to attend,” Taylor states.

This may include anyone who has served in the military and armed forces or who lives in the Champaign-Urbana community and surrounding areas. Family of service members and veterans, as well as friends and community members wanting to be involved are also welcome.

Anyone wanting to participate can pre-register by contacting Taylor. Pre-registration is helpful to the organization of the event, but not necessary.

Food donations are another way to support the event. After the march, all donated food will be given to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank for distribution.

“We are looking for food donations to carry in our rucks on the march. If anyone is interested in donating food, they can drop it off at Parkland Veterans Resource Center in U299,” Taylor says.

Taylor says that the goal of the Student Veteran’s Association at Parkland is to “foster esprit de corps among college veterans and promote an understanding of veterans’ issues.”

They aim to give student veterans common goals and a place to bond over shared experiences. Taylor also says that cultivating student issues through scheduled meetings, advocacy, and social and recreational activities are some of the association’s priorities.

“[The purpose is] to create an organization where student veterans can come together and feel a sense of connectivity given the nature of their unique past experience, and to create an infrastructure within Parkland College for the purpose of establishing a network of support systems for student veterans,” Taylor says. 

Taylor says events like the Champaign Ruck are necessary in order to raise awareness to current issues that concern veterans.

“Because we don’t live near a large military base, many of those in our community don’t realize the large number of veterans living in Parkland’s 505 district,” says Taylor. “Many of these veterans are in need, and funding for many of our social services that assist these veterans is being cut. It is important that we stay aware of veterans’ issues and do what we can to support our veterans in our community as they have provided a service to us all.”

To contact Taylor, email her at ktaylor@parkland.edu.