Organization helps serve military students
By Nicole Johnson
The Student Veterans Organization is quickly gaining momentum as the university’s only military-based club. Membership is open to anyone who has an affiliation with the military or simply has a desire to help or get to know a current or former service member.
Junior cell biology major Jared Peirce is the SVO president and expressed the importance of bringing the university’s military community together.
“There are several hundred individuals here who are veterans or family members of veterans, and they all have various knowledge bases, but no one person knows everything. The trick is getting all these people to share what they know with each other,” Peirce said.
With primary goals such as assisting students transitioning out of the military, networking and connecting with Fort Hood, the SVO, which was officially chartered in the spring, anticipates having a positive influence on the university.
“My expectation for this organization is for it to help improve the situation of students here at UMHB. We’ve already been able to answer a lot of questions from folks who came to the meetings as well as linking some of our veteran members with a lucrative employment opportunity,” Peirce said.
He explained that advising traditional students who are considering a career in the armed forces is another important mission. Having the right counsel in areas such as benefits for enlistees, deployments and employment assistance will help a future service member’s career progress.
“I myself missed out on many opportunities as a new soldier that would have made a big difference for me if I had an experienced soldier to advise me as I signed up,” Peirce said.
Freshman criminal justice major Jeralyn Ditlevson found difficulty in adjusting to student life after spending 12 years in the military. She explained how she is grateful for the camaraderie of the SVO because it has assisted her in transitioning from the battlefield to the classroom.
“Soldiers always do better when they help each other,” she said. “We just want to reach out to the vets and say ‘Hey, we’re here for you.’”
As vice president of events, Ditlevson along with staff adviser Ruby Bowen hopes that more students will become aware of the 25-member organization and want to participate in its upcoming activities.
An Organizational Day and Pie-in-the-Face fundraiser are just a few festivities that are on the schedule for November. Also planned are events that put emphasis on supporting those who serve like a Wheelers for the Wounded toy drive, sending care packages to troops in Afghanistan and an off-road trip for injured soldiers and their families.
A connection with the Fort Hood military installation is of high importance. The SVO plans on keeping this constant liaison by reaffirming the links it already has. Since most of the veteran members were discharged from the military at the installation, ties back to the post already exist.
Army Sgt. 1st Class James Griffin of the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, is motivated to coordinate with students from the university.
“UMHB doesn’t have a presence on base like Texas A&M,” Griffin said. “Most of my soldiers don’t even know that such a prestigious school is right up the road. I’m excited to unite with UMHB to help the soldiers serving our country and those who served.”
Meetings are held on campus every third Wednesday of each month and off campus. For information e-mail Peirce at firstname.lastname@example.org.