In spirit of the holiday on Nov. 11, the Veterans Resource Center will be dedicating the entire month of November to veterans. Dave Millet, the director of the Veterans Resource Center, said the VRC will be engaged in a number of events and activities over this next month to honor the national holiday.
Until Nov. 15, there will be a display in the library with all the service flags that will include local resources for veterans, and a display case that shows the connection between citizens and the military. There will be a demonstration on MREs (meal-ready-to-eat) performed by a group of students and veterans one of the days.
There will be a collection for homeless veterans that will run through the month. Nov. 9 and 10 there will be a hot dog sale, hosted by Sigma Phi Epsilon, the proceeds of which will go to a local veterans organization. Also on Nov. 9 there will be a three-hour seminar hosted by “Got Your Six.” This is a program developed by Millet to help teach faculty and staff about military culture, the transition challenges veterans face coming back on campus, and how the GI bill works, all in order to put the faculty in a place where they can offer helpful assistance to veterans in their classes or on campus.
On Veterans Day at noon, there will be a men’s basketball game against Linfield. It is free to attend, and veterans will be recognized during halftime.
The VRC, which has been in operation since July 2012 and is located at 122 Showalter Hall, is structured to help assist veterans, both in physical and emotional support. That support comes in many forms:
Assistance with GI Bill benefits
Admissions and financial aid counseling
Academic and personal advising
Liaison with disability services
Referrals to campus support services
Support for veterans’ student club
Activities for veteran and military students and their families
Public presentations and speakers
Workshops for veteran and military students
Faculty and staff training
Millet said the center currently supports over 500 students. The center was created out of a need to serve the growing influx of veterans returning to school after the passing of the post-9/11 GI Bill, benefits that included paid tuition. In Millet’s view, the main mission of the VRC is to assist with the transition from the military to higher education.
That transition can be difficult due to the age difference. A large number of people enlist in the military before going to college, which Millet said in his view, leaves a lot of 25 or 26 year olds in classes with freshman.
The center offers more than just tangible support. The VRC, which features a lounge with high ceilings, has become a hub for veterans to interact with one another. That lounge is where friendships are formed. It is where they give suggestions on professors and tell war stories, as well as getting schoolwork done or just relaxing.
“I think the biggest thing you see that’s been a positive is the social connections they make, they get to know who other veterans are on campus,” Millet said.
Tori Belfils, EWU senior and member of the National Guard, is one of those veterans who can attest to Millet’s claim. Belfils mentioned that it is not easy for veterans to integrate on campus because of the age difference, and that the center provides a place for veterans to form their own relationships and get work done.
Having this office is a great way for veterans to start coming to the school, feel comfortable, have a place to do homework and be able to converse with fellow veterans. It’s a really good community within the school,” Belfils said.
It is that social aspect that seems to be the most rewarding for the people who use the center. For people like Hunter Sheffield, EWU sophomore and member of the Air Force, it is a place where he can go to connect.
“I spent five years basically living on my own, been in war zones,” said Sheffield, 24. “It’s definitely nice to have a place like this, where everyone here, you relate to. Even the different branches, you can relate to them, because they have the same life experiences, they’re closer to age.”