Iowa State’s Veteran Center Barbecue featured a cookout and conversation


Brookside Park is one of two Ames parks with restroom renovation projects waiting to be approved by Ames City Council. The Brookside Park Restroom Renovation Project includes replacing its old restroom with gender-neutral facilities.

Mike Brown

The annual Iowa State Veterans Center Welcome Back Barbecue provided an opportunity for Iowa State student veterans, ROTC, military families and more to gather at Brookside Park and reconnect with old friends, form new bonds and celebrate the start of another school year.

The barbecue featured a spread of cookout mainstays including chicken, baked beans, brisket and watermelon, but as reserve Marine and sophomore in kinesiology and health Timothy Thomas said, this was only one aspect of the event.

“The food might bring you in at first, but you get to know the people and you get a nostalgic feeling, it feels good,” Thomas said.

Thomas also spoke on the connections he makes with people at the Veterans Center barbecue, and the lasting relationships that come of it.

“You make friends while you’re here, you get to know the community and then you make personal friends as well,” Thomas said.

Thomas said there were people he never would have met had it not been for the Veterans Center’s events, and seeing these individuals again is something that keeps him coming back.

Brant Larson, Navy ROTC and freshman in mechanical engineering, spoke about his experience at the barbecue.

“What was really nice was being able to meet these outstanding individuals who put their lives on the line for this country,” Larson said.

The event was also a family affair with some guests bringing their partners and children, who played at a nearby playset as their parents ate and socialized with other attendees.

The event also drew a far larger crowd than expected, with a rough head count of 100 attendees, according to senior in culinary food science Eliza Fitz.

Jathan Chicoine, director of the Iowa State Veterans Center and former Navy Seal, described his goals for outreach events like the barbecue for Iowa State’s student veterans.

“In the military you develop a sense of comradery with your brothers and sisters,” Chicoine said, “When a lot of our military members leave the military and transition, like a lot of our student veterans, there’s that loss of community, for so many students it’s about finding that community again.”

Hal Schenck, Army veteran as well as professor and department chair in mathematics, offers student veterans assistance with math and has been working with the veterans center to ensure the academic success of student veterans in the mathematics field.

Schenck’s goal is to help students through the struggle of transitioning student veterans into the world of academia. Schneck said events like the barbecue build networks of support for students to help themselves and each other while also becoming aware of assistance and resources available to them.

Derek Zobler, senior in management information systems and Marine veteran, spoke about the tightness and support provided through the Iowa State student veteran community.

Zobler said he took a role of outreach to help people find out about the event, and spoke to what he finds important about community building events for military families, ROTC, active duty and veterans.

“There’s a commonality between all of them, whether you’re active duty, veteran or a family member. Everybody has a similar experience, so there’s a bond there that really brings us closer together,” Zobler said.