By Shawn Simpson
“This office is all about veterans serving veterans. One thing these people understand is teamwork. Camaraderie. Esprit De Corps,” said Kena Zumalt, director of the resource center. “They understand being on a mission. Their mission is to succeed and to help their peers succeed.”
The resource center has counselors specializing in V.A. and G.I. Bill administration who can work with students to maximize benefits. Students will often find help among their fellow veterans with suggestions for grants, scholarships and programs for which they may be entitled. “That’s part of the teamwork that’s so much a part of their service time,” Zumalt added.
Sometimes the difficulty isn’t just in the bureaucracy. Finding value in the new “mission” of being a student can present challenges. “At first I was like ‘what am I doing here?’ ” said Donny Whitton, staff member of the center and president of the Veterans Club. “You go from being a staff sergeant with a platoon of 30 people under you to here … suddenly, what you’re doing feels like it amounts to a lot less. What you were doing before felt like it mattered, but it’s hard to feel like that anymore.”
Whitton’s story is one that could be echoed by other veterans, of finding it difficult to engage in a pursuit of self-improvement through education after being entrenched in the selflessly rigid structure of combat deployment. Stephanie Alvarez is another staff member at the center in the work study program after four years in the army and one year in Iraq as a truck driver.
“Part of the challenge was not having so much military bearing … I’ve led soldiers … so I’ve had to remind myself that the civilian students are here … you can’t make them do push-ups!”
The Veteran and Military Student Resource Center is located in COM 305 and is open to students and the community who have served in the military as well as dependents. For more information on the services provided, visit their website or stop by. You’re almost certain to be greeted by a friendly veteran ready to assist you in finding the help you’re looking for.