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Drexel Honors 907 Student Veterans With Flag Display

November 13, 2017

The view of the flag installation from outside of the Gerri C. LeBow Hall.
The view of the flag installation from outside of the Gerri C. LeBow Hall.

There are currently 907 student-veterans enrolled at Drexel University — and each and every one of them was represented in a recent installation of 907 American flags on Drexel’s University City Campus.

From Nov. 9­–12, the flags proudly stood on the lawn on the north end of Perelman Plaza, arranged in a 100-by-40-foot rectangle composed of 50 rows of 18 flags (to line up 900 flags, with seven extras left on the end). The flags were flanked by flyers that informed passerby about the meaning behind the installation, stating, “We proudly display these American flags in honor of the 907 current Drexel students who have served our country.”

“We chose the flags because of the patriotism that our military service men and women defend and to let them know that they are valued members of our community and we thank them for their service during Veterans Day and related celebrations,” said Rebecca Weidensaul, PhD, assistant vice president of Student Life.

The flag installation was one of the many events and activities created as part of Veterans and Military Family Appreciation Week at Drexel leading up to Veterans Day.

The view of the flag installation from the fifth floor of the Gerri C. LeBow Hall.

Though the University has celebrated the week for many years, and has a longtime reputation as a military-friendly school through its participation in the GI Bill's® Yellow Ribbon Program and its rich military history, this was the first occasion in which flags were placed on campus to represent Drexel’s undergraduate, graduate and online student-veterans.

“It was amazing to walk past the flags and see that Drexel put up 907 flags for us, on top of the fact that Drexel has probably the best Yellow Ribbon offering that any institution can give to veterans, on top of just being a great school overall,” said Joy Panicker Jr., an undergraduate economics student in the LeBow College of Business and treasurer of the Drexel Veterans Association (DVA), who served in the Marine infantry. “I think it’s just a win-win-win situation.”

Panicker was one of the student-veterans and officers in the DVA who arrived on campus Nov. 9 just as the sun rose to help the members of University Facilities and Real Estate’s Grounds Department plant the flags and flyers.

Peter Majerick IV, who served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army and is now a psychology major in the College of Arts and Sciences and event coordinator for the DVA, and Emery Mako, who served as a helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Army and is now studying finance and economics in the LeBow College of Business and is president of the DVA, also arrived on campus early that morning for the occasion. Already, they had participated in various Veterans and Military Family Appreciation Week activities, including representing Drexel at the City of Philadelphia 3rd Annual Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 5, and planned on attending the ROTC Contracting Ceremony later that morning and the Drexel Athletics Salutes America's Veterans halftime event the next day.

Drexel student veterans Joy Panicker Jr., Peter Majerick IV and Emery Mako (from left to right) stand in front of the flag installation.

“Drexel’s Yellow Ribbon Program helps out because the school matches what our education benefits fall short of,” said Majerick. “Without that program, most of the veterans wouldn’t be here at Drexel. When I was looking at schools, it was obviously going to be Drexel because of its Yellow Ribbon Program.”

Mako also spoke highly of what he called Drexel’s “top-notch” program for veterans, adding, “Drexel makes it affordable for us, they really take care of us, and little things like this flag installation really show their appreciation for us. I’m very happy to be here and work with Chris Young [associate director of transfer admissions and veteran affairs in Undergraduate Admissions and DVA faculty adviser] and Dr. Weidensaul to improve on how Drexel helps veterans transitioning from military to civilian and student life.”

Veteran Task Force colleagues came up with the idea of the flag installation over the summer and worked with University Facilities and Real Estate in advance to plan the picture-perfect display. The flags were installed just a few weeks after construction finished on the nearby Korman Quad and the gas lines on Market Street surrounding the grassy knoll, parts of which were seeded, were sown and mowed just before the installation.

The view of the flag installation from Perelman Plaza at night.

Scott Dunham, assistant director of the Grounds Department, and other Grounds staff members spent a lot of time visualizing, measuring and planning how to align the flags. Ultimately, each flag was placed exactly two feet apart from neighboring flags in a rectangular shape, with the flags visible through all angles when walking around the elevated grassy knoll.

“We had to figure out how to make the display as large as possible and still fit in the space,” said Dunham. “We really spent some time out there with string and tape measurers on Monday and Tuesday outlining where the flags would go.”

Dunham chose the layout design of the rectangular installation to look like the shape of a giant flag.

“I’m glad we could provide support for the veterans,” he said. “We were happy to be asked to help.”

In addition to the work of the crew from the Grounds Department, members of Drexel’s Operations and Maintenance Department helped set up temporary lighting to shed light on the flags at night.

“Any time we can celebrate and meaningfully recognize the students who make this university great, I am proud; at this moment, it was our 907 student-veterans who chose Drexel to be their next mission and we are all the better for it,” said Weidensaul. “I want to especially thank our colleagues in Campus Services and University Facilities and Real Estate for making this installation possible.”