Veterans Resource Center's aim is aid
By Tom Larson
On Veterans Day, the best way to honor the military, past and present, is to offer help if it's needed.
Now in its second year, the Veterans Resource Center at the University of Minnesota, Morris, is just that: a resource for students, faculty and staff who have served in the armed forces.
UMM sponsored a reception for veterans and well-wishers on Tuesday in the Student Center, and it gave Veterans Affairs Representative Matthew Strong a chance to let the campus community know what services are available for veterans, during and after their military commitment.
"Anyone with any issue, especially dealing with the Veterans Affairs office, I'd like them to come see me," Strong said. "Students, staff, faculty, I can do something for them. And if I can't, I'll do my best to find things out for them."
There are 16 veterans among the UMM student body, with many veterans employed in various departments, Strong said.
Many issues can be difficult to address, especially for student veterans who might be living away from the city where their unit is located, Strong said.
Also, veterans benefits programs are changing quite often, and some veterans might not be completely aware of educational and financial opportunities they could be eligible for, he said.
For example, because of a change in his G.I. Bill status, one veteran didn't realize he was eligible for $600 per month that he wasn't getting, Strong said.
The Federal Tuition Assistance program also is complex, and it's not always easy to get answers or details about an individual's specific situation.
"There may be a lot of loops and holes that weren't there before," Strong said. "I'm trying to have more contact with veterans and try to get them all together."
Adam Gorecki, of the New London and Spicer area, is a senior history major who is attached to the Morris National Guard. His contact with the office has been "really helpful," especially since it's possible the Morris unit could be activated for overseas duty during his final college semester.
"Hopefully, it won't happen before graduation (this spring)," Gorecki said with a smile.
John Ansell is a senior with double majors in history and anthropology, and he is an Army Reservist. He spent a year in Baghdad from September 2006 to September 2007.
Ansell hasn't used the UMM vet resource center, but said he can see how the service would be helpful.
"There have been a lot of obligations that have taken me away from my studies and personal time with my family and friends," Ansell said. "That's the commitment you make. You want to try get as much help as you can, and it's good just having the resources out there."
Strong, a Specialist with the Army National Guard, said he's prepared to help veterans with questions about education and financial aid, and he's taken seminars to become aware of differences in programs available to vets in different branches of the military.
"My job is to serve as a middle man in a situation where veterans might feel like they don't have one.
The Veterans Resource Center is in rooms 201 and 203 of Blakely Hall. Strong can be reached at (320) 589-7006, or by cell phone at (612) 237-0103. The office's email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.