Veterans group still searching for center location

The Military and Veterans Alliance, UNA’s largest recognized student organization (RSO), is still in search of a location for a Veteran and Military Student Affairs center. The process began after SGA unanimously voted to allocate $25,000 towards the establishment of a program last April.

SGA President Will Riley said that establishing and securing a space for this center is a high priority for SGA this year.

“The money for the center is still there,” Riley said. “The first item of business is finding a location. Once we secure that, we will apportion the rest of the money to meet the building and program’s needs.”

The UNA Military and Veterans Alliance (MVA) was founded two years ago by Lt. Col. Wayne Bergeron, other faculty and students to unite the campus’ military and veteran students.

MVA is the main advocate for a consolidated center to provide services to veteran and military students as well as students of military families.

The center would also serve to provide a network to get students plugged in to campus.

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill allows veterans to go wherever they want,” Bergeron said. “They’ll go where they will have their needs met. We want to make sure we are providing those services.”

In addition to needing help with paperwork, Bergeron said many veteran students are returning to school with certain needs that require special attention.

“We want a place where a veteran with any question about the college experience can go,” Bergeron said.  “A center could also set up and take Veterans Affairs (VA) claims where the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and other groups can come onto campus and help students get what they need.”

Veteran student John McGee, former SGA senator, wrote the proposal for allocation of funds for the center. McGee said that Emily McCann, former vice president of SGA senate, played a vital role in establishing an ad hoc committee for veteran affairs that would raise awareness and advocate for a center.

“We expect the number of veteran students to at least double here within the next few years, with the ending of Iraq,” McGee said. “We also expect the center to provide jobs for student veterans to have; the Veterans Association is funding that.”

McGee said there is now a position in the SGA cabinet for a MVA representative. The seat is currently being held by SGA executive member William Nash.

Nash said MVA also has plans to raise awareness and increase its presence on campus this semester.

“The officers of MVA just had our first meeting of the semester; we are already doing some fundraising,” Nash said. “We are looking to add philanthropy to this because that is a great way to get involved with other RSO’s on campus.”

Nash said the high number of non-traditional students within MVA presented a challenge to unify the group and get involved. The center would give MVA a face.

“We are trying to get involved with organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project or work on sending care packages over the holidays,” he said. “I’ve even met with some girls who want to get their sororities involved with that.

“Other people on campus have ties to the military through family and friends and are really excited to help once they hear about us.”

As the MVA’s faculty supervisor, Bergeron said the RSO’s leaders are very driven and will get the job done.

“It’s about trying to help out our friends who have made a sacrifice when they didn’t have to,” Nash said. “There was no draft, nobody deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan because they were forced to; they wanted to serve.”