Patriots come in all ages at Marshall University.
That’s because the higher education icon makes a special effort to attract and encourage veterans to its Cabell County campus.
This military-friendly spirit was evident at yesterday’s Veterans Day Ceremony, a special event that drew dozens who also share this patriotic pride.
More than 50 people came together for last year’s inaugural event, and is a good indication of how much veterans are appreciated locally, said Jonathan McCormick.
Proud of his family’s military members and his own stint in the Marine Corps, McCormick is no stranger to serving his country.
Now director of the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, he gets to share that love of country with others who are equally dedicated.
Yesterday afternoon’s ceremony honored the service and sacrifice of veterans, past and present.
Capt. Jessica DeCloux of the United States Marine Corps was the keynote speaker.
She spoke to an enthusiastic crowd who’d gathered for the outdoor event despite the weather.
“I believe it was well received by those who attended despite the cold temperatures. We are hoping to expand in the future to be a more elaborate event, hopefully with the help of some better weather,” McCormick said.
This holiday celebration is just one way the school focuses on its veteran enrollees.
Administrators are eager to help make this academic experience as productive (and painless) as possible.
There are veterans who’ve returned as students, as well as children who are taking advantage of their parent’s GI Bill benefits.
“I think this year we currently have around 350 students who are using GI Bill benefits.
While that is already a pretty significant number, we are always looking to grow that number and to help as many veterans as possible,” he said.
The campus has its own veterans resource center which has a long list of offerings. Services range from recreational facilities to a computer lab complete with free printing.
It’s basically a “hub” for veterans’ information, he said.
And since his office is also there, McCormick is able to offer personal attention and advice.
“I try to promote an open-door policy,” he said. “I really try to embody the idea of trying to be an advocate for these veterans
Camaraderie is important, and helps individuals face challenges sometimes associated with returning to civilian life or simply getting back into the classroom, he said.
It isn’t always easy to relate to others, especially younger students or others who’ve yet to spend much time in stressful, professional situations.
Some veterans, including a well-known professor, have been deployed multiple times.
“These are life experiences far beyond what many folks may ever experience. So it helps when these men and women can reach out to someone who’s walked in their shoes,” he said.
There’s also a student organization which was previously known as Vets for Vets.
It was rebranded last summer to better reflect its mission, and is now the university’s Student Veterans Association.
“They are a big part of everything we do. I am a staff of one, so I rely very heavily on the students and it works very well. They are equally committed to making a difference.”