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Service story: OSU student reflects on his own career during Veterans’ Week

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Media contact: Sydney Trainor | Communications Specialist | 405-744-9782 | [email protected]

Every November, one will take a walk on the lawn of the Oklahoma State University Library and hear the clink and clink of metallic memorabilia echoing in the crisp fall air.

For one week each year, personalized dog tags are attached to American flags placed in rows on Library Lawn as a reminder to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

In December 1906, the United States Army officially began issuing metal identification tags to service members. The purpose of these IDs was to ensure that fallen service members could be reunited with their families and remembered for their sacrifice.

Now, they serve as a representation of sacrifice and a reminder for students, faculty, and guests of OSU’s Stillwater campus. It also allows OSU alumni who are on active duty or veterans, like Tiffiany Peters, to take a moment to remember fallen comrades.

For two years and 10 months, Peters served in the United States Air Force as an Airman 1st Class in the 92nd Services Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington.

In 2007, when her duty in Afghanistan was canceled, Peters asked her chief master sergeant and first sergeant to let her go somewhere so she could make an impact. She received a temporary duty assignment (TDY) at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware.

Peters was assigned to mortuary affairs at the port morgue. She helped the FBI photograph and fingerprint the fallen remains; send them for autopsy and embalming; and when they returned to her, she dressed them in their military uniforms or wrapped them in a US-stamped woolen blanket before being sent to their final resting place.

Peters never planned to attend OSU, but when his family moved to Oklahoma, for employment opportunities, the Air Force veteran became an OSU student in the fall of 2021 and s is involved in the Veteran Student Success Office.

When Peters arrived in Stillwater, she was proud to see how the OSU honored service members on Library Lawn.

Peters felt a strong personal connection to the dog tags displayed on the lawn because she treated many of the honored remains on the lawn. She took the time to help place the flags and dog tags on the rack.

In the basement of the Student Union, Peters helped sort out the dog tags for the first time. Eventually she picked one up, read the name, and it stopped dead.

“It was a name I remembered,” Peters said.

Overwhelmed with emotion, she thought back to one of her most humiliating experiences – her four months in mortuary affairs at Dover Air Force Base.

“You have to sign off because you can’t let every person that comes through the morgue hit you or you’ll never do your job,” Peters said. “But there was one person that I followed from start to finish as he went through treatment and that was the name I saw on the dog tag, and that was a looping moment. for me.

“It felt like I was here at OSU for a reason.”

Seeing that name was a reminder that each person on those tags had a story, a hometown, and a family. This got Peters thinking about his own story.

Joining the army was in his blood. Both of his grandfathers served in the navy and his father served in the army. However, Peters was unsure if the military was something she wanted to do. As a sophomore in high school, she considered joining the Navy and even talked to a recruiter, but ultimately decided to pursue her education at a small private college in Michigan.

Midway through college, Peters began to wonder about her future and how she was going to support herself. Determined to do more with her life, she set out to have unique experiences and make an impact outside of her hometown.

“I ended up joining the Air Force and it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life to be quite honest,” Peters said.

His first duty station was at Fairchild Air Force Base. While in the supply wing, she worked in the restaurant business and met her husband Tony.

“It was an amazing experience. I mean, not many people can say they’ve seen a B-2 plane refueling in the air from a KC-135. It’s an experience like that, the person sitting next to me could never tell they did it,” Peters said.

When the time came, Peters left the Air Force to raise a family. She and Tony had three children, Conner, Marshall and RoseLynne. Eventually, Peters decided she wanted to go back to college to complete her associate’s degree in digital design and eventually get a bachelor’s degree to complete her associate’s degree. She made the choice to enroll in the OSU.

Determined to earn a bachelor’s degree, Peters began studying marketing at the Spears School of Business and became involved on campus serving as vice president of the Military Veteran Family Society.

“As veteran students, we don’t connect in the same way as a typical college student and we don’t feel like we belong,” Peters said. “You realize that you are not the same as the other students. I mean, we’re older, we have more life experience, and we prioritize things differently than a traditional college student.

The student organization has been revamped over the past year with the goal of being more inclusive. Members do not have to be veterans or active military personnel. It could be military family members or just someone who supports the military.

Peters hopes the changes will continue to help the organization grow and make an impact in the community.

“We were just four when we started and now I think we’re sitting at 16. So we’ve quadrupled since the start of the semester and we’re still trying to do more things to get more people involved,” Peters said. . “We’re always trying to find our place and see how far our reach can go and what we can do as a group. But it was really fun to see the different ideas people have and how they really want to engage.

The organization’s goal is to help facilitate a community where people have a safe space to talk about the OSU life and experience in a relatable way. They can share memories of the glory days while being in a place that puts mental health first.

“On average, 22 veterans per day commit suicide because they have no outlet. They have no way to connect. They don’t know what resources are available to them, who they can talk to, or they don’t want to burden others with their problems. None of us want to see our armed brothers and sisters struggling, so building a community of support is what we’re trying to create here at OSU,” Peters said.

The Military Veterans Families Society hosted events such as tailgates for military families and supporters to connect. Peters wants veteran students to connect with each other and find camaraderie.

“Tiffany has been a constant supporter of the Veteran Student Success Center since we met with her last year,” said Vincent Rivera, Veteran Student Success Coordinator. “His enthusiasm, caring nature and overall geniality have been key factors in the resurgence of our center and the veterans club.”

Dog tags and flags are a yearly reminder to honor the dead, but Peters wants veterans to gather more than once each November; really know yourself as more than just a name on a uniform.

“We really want the veteran student community to know that there is a space for them, even if they feel left out, there is a space and this community is growing because we are connecting, opening up and diversifying. “Peters said. “We are veterans, near and far, trying to navigate this new path we are on, one day at a time, but it’s good to know we are not alone on the path.”