By CARA SEXTON
The new organization, UMW Veterans, hopes to reach out and connect veterans within the student body, faculty and staff.
The group, led by Dan Nelson, UMW counselor, and Golda Eldridge, director of leadership for student affairs, hopes to identify and support veterans within the community and on campus.
University of Mary Washington veterans must register through the Office of Admissions under their GI Bill benefits. However, this can be misleading, since spouses and children of the veterans can also be listed and some are not using their benefits at all.
Prior to the fall 2012 semester, there was no discussion at UMW of a veterans’ affairs office or organization, however, Nelson noticed that veterans were having a difficult time adjusting from an active duty lifestyle to an academic one, and sought to assist them in the transition.
Veteran Matthew Blair and UMW alumnus from December 2012 likes the idea of a veterans group on campus.
“When I was at school, there was no real way [for veterans] to interact. Each veteran themselves is good support for others because we have had similar experiences,” said Blair. “I’ve always wondered why there was no VA liaison office on campus. Hopefully now UMW Vet students are being more recognized and UMW will offer more Veteran related offices.”
According to Eldridge, who is a former Air Force ROTC Commander, the organization wants to promote an environment that is “open to all faculty, staff and students for the purpose of camaraderie and friendship.”
UMW Veterans hopes to assist in linking veterans with resources available both on campus and in the community, as well as help them transition into university life, all while improving their overall experience at UMW.
Sophomore Elizabeth Howard thinks the group could be beneficial to veterans.
“I think it’s great that there is a heightened awareness of student veterans,” said Howard. “I hope the organization will also encourage civilians to reach out to the vets in order to get them more involved in our community and to create a better interaction amongst us.”
“We have 23 faculty, staff and students who have expressed interest in some way shape or form,” said Eldridge.
Additionally, the group has created a Facebook page called “University of Mary Washington Veterans,” which has been up and running since August 2012.
“I am glad that the page is established now because it will give future vet students a chance to interact within their own peer group,” said Blair.
Besides sharing information and support, “One of our primary goals is to act as mentors and guides,” said Eldridge. “To be somebody that they can relate to.”
On Thursday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m., the organization will meet in the cellar of the Capital Ale House downtown for any UMW veterans interested in attending. In addition, UMW Veterans will soon be sending out an email to the entire student body asking for responses from those who are current service members or veterans.
The group has now extended to the Stafford Campus.