By ERIN MATUCZINSKI
According to “U.S. News & World Report,” UMW has been ranked number 7 in best colleges for veterans for 2020. This rating is based on certification of the GI Bill, participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program and a minimum number of enrolled veterans or active service members. While it may be known that UMW offers military resources, such as the Veteran’s Resource Center (VRC), not many students are aware of the active duty members or veterans around them every single day.
The VRC, located on the first floor of the University Center, is a place for veterans or students who are affiliated with the military to study and socialize with one another. While there are great amenities such as coffee and television, the VRC more importantly provides an opportunity to make connections within the veteran community.
Senior business management and accounting major Dennis Ferry has experienced those connections first-hand.
“Post service life is a lonely and dangerous experience,” Ferry said. “The VRC was a lifeline during my first year where I found a supportive community that I’m trying to pay forward.”
The VRC is not the only social resource available to veterans on campus. The Association of Student Veterans (ASV) is a club on campus “to promote recognition, appreciation and support to students who are military service members, veterans, their families or their supporters.”
Their goals consist of finding ways to improve the campus atmosphere for veterans, assisting in their adjustment to college life and introducing the rest of the UMW community to student service members and veterans.
The ASV holds events periodically throughout the school year to achieve these goals, such as the annual 22 push-up challenge to raise awareness for the 22 veterans that commit suicide every day.
In November 2018, they succeeded in having students sign over 350 thank you cards that were presented to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars office to thank them for their brave service in the forces.
Outside of these organizations, staff such as Chris Porter and Ryan Hastings, are described by Ferry as making “nearly heroic efforts” to help the transition from military service to higher education.
Senior history major Christopher O’Neill said, “I think UMW does a great job recognizing veterans. I appreciate the ability to register for classes before anyone, so I’ve always been able to get into any class I wanted. I also appreciated being thanked for my military service by teachers and students, though I certainly don’t expect that.”
Every bit of support goes a long way. Simply recognizing service members for their sacrifices can make a big difference to those who may be struggling with assimilation or their past experiences.
“I appreciate the support veterans get here at UMW,” said O’Neill. “I sometimes think that higher education institutions look down on the military due to having contrary goals in shaping society, but that is not the case with UMW.”