The family that veterans make up is a bond so strong that no one is left behind, despite the daily hardships that each may face.
That strength was demonstrated Thursday when the Student Veterans of America (SVA) came out to raise money and show support for injured veteran Cpl. Matthew Shank during the Hug-A-Vet event.
Shank was an infantry assaultman who provided rocket power against fortified locations in Marjah, Afghanistan. In 2011, he was returning to his base in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain Vehicle when it was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). Shank sustained a traumatic brain injury, five broken vertebrae, neck injuries and a grade-three concussion.
Bryan Crist, president of the SVA, started the Hug-A-Vet fundraiser for Shank at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11, in the hopes of raising enough money to help with the expenses in the veteran’s new house. “We’re trying to raise money for him to help with things he may need for his home,” Crist said.
“Last year Zach Stinson lost both his legs in Afghanistan and we raised $4,400,” Crist said of the previous fundraiser.
Shank is married with a 1 1/2-year-old daughter and is currently training a dog to assist him with his mobility. Shank is taking steps in recovering, which includes physical therapy for his back pain.
SVA vice president, and former active duty Marine Lucas Hull, attended the event, as well, to show support for his fellow veteran. “We did everything for this event [with] no outside sponsorship,” Hull said. “All the proceeds go to Cpl. Matthew Shank. We have $1,050, so far, and plan on reaching $1,500.”
The SVA gave out pins, patches and other merchandise to passerbys or anyone interested in donating to the cause. Students were also given the option to sign large wooden boards to symbolize their support for fallen veterans.
“We set up flags for Flight 93, the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. All three sites of 9/11,” said Robert Smith, associate dean of students. “This is the fifth year that we’ve done flags and the second year that we’ve done the Hug-A-Vet event.”
Students were taken aback by the valiant effort the organization put together for families that were affected by the 9/11 attacks.
“I think it’s great that they’re raising awareness and also it’s a great way to say thanks. You get to give them a hug and thank them for fighting for us,” said freshman Emily Martin, an early childhood education major. Shank was awarded a combat action ribbon and the Purple Heart for his efforts in protecting the nation’s freedoms.
At the end of the event, the SVA raised approximately $1,300.