According to the Veterans Affairs office, there are 480 military veterans on the campus.
That’s nearly 13 percent of students, faculty and staff.
To celebrate those who dedicated their time to service, UMHB played Marches of the Armed Forces at halftime of the home football game on Veterans Day, and students wore red to their classes on Friday.
Despite the high percentile of veterans, Mike Harrigan and Thad Imerman noticed a lack of social groups for veterans.
With this absence in mind, Harrigan and Imerman formed Veterans Helping Veterans, a Bible study through the Baptist Student Ministries that’s dedicated to creating a group specifically for veterans and ROTC cadets.
Harrigan, senior pastor of Fairview Community Church and senior biblical studies major, said Veterans Helping Veterans is a Bible study group for veterans, where they also discuss any veteran issues here on campus or in their lives.
“We have experience and contacts with veterans’ administration, and hospitals, but we concentrate on the spiritual formation and spiritual health of the veterans. We want them to feel a little bit more at home here.”
The organization’s founders understand the struggles of veterans because they both have served in the military.
Harrigan spent 21 years in the Army and retired as a first sergeant, while Imerman was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant from the Army.
They found the process of continuing their educational career difficult, and seek to aid other veterans who want to further their academic careers.
“[The group] helps a lot in validating the experience. I had veterans coming into campus as transfers, not new students. There was no sit-down explanation of what benefits they’re going to get, that the VA provides for them…there was no real guidance given for these vets coming in. The camaraderie also helps with those still suffering from PTSD or separation from the military.”
Through their connections and experiences throughout the VA and other benefits of the military, Harrigan and Imerman are able to assist newly discharged or retired veterans who are still adjusting to civilian life.
Since veterans are nontraditional students, most of them commute from the Temple or Killeen areas to school each day, isolating them from traditional campus life. “They’re gonna feel sort of lonely,” Harrigan said. “This is another way to get our arms around them in that so they feel welcomed and a part of the program. It’s an easy way to create that camaraderie again.”
Imerman praised the group for its ability to connect him with people he wouldn’t have otherwise met as a journalism major. “I’ve met four or five veterans I didn’t know, and an ROTC kid.”
Harrigan uses current events as a central topic of study, which he then relates to scriptures for the Bible study’s discussion. “It’s helpful especially when these terrible things go on,” Harrigan said shortly after the Sutherland Springs shooting.
“Most of these veterans have already experienced terrible things. Terrible things can have different effects on them, so we look at biblical references to this—just about all of them have PTSD.”
Veterans Helping Veterans, in addition to spreading welcoming arms towards Crusader veterans, aims to educate the UMHB community about certain needs of veterans, especially service dogs. “Even professors misunderstand the needs of service dogs and their handlers,” Harrigan said.
For more information on service animals, check out Jasmin Ortiz’s article in the Oct. 12 issue of the Bells, found at the bells.umhb.edu.
Veterans Helping Veterans meets every Monday at 3:30 p.m. in the Baptist Student Ministries building adjacent to the Meyer Christian Studies building.
“Never hesitate to shake [a veteran’s] hand and say ‘thank you for your service,’” Harrigan said.