OHIO offers support for veteran and military-affiliated students
On the 3rd floor of Baker University Center, tucked in the wing labeled “administrative offices,” is the Brigadier General James M. Abraham & Colonel Arlene F. Greenfield Veterans and Military Student Services Center. Shortened to “the Veterans Center,” this is a space for all veterans and military-affiliated students to get support and advocacy. From learning about VA education benefits to enjoying a snack between classes in the Veterans Lounge to a conversation about shared experience with other military-affiliated students, this office is supporting students in new ways every day.
Veterans Center Director Terry St. Peter served active duty for 23 years as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army before retiring in 2015. He joined the Veterans Center later that year and was named its director in January 2020. As director, St. Peter is in charge of the Center’s programming and supporting the community that the Center has brought together—a community that’s grown stronger over the last year as the Veterans Lounge nears its one-year anniversary in Baker.
“Colocation is important, and that's why this is so awesome that [the Lounge is] right here through this wall,” St. Peter said from his office in the Center. “They can come in this door right here and ask any questions they need.”
“Our greatest contribution is being a place for every veteran on campus,” Barnes said. “[Every veteran] knows how to come to our office.”
Another student-staff member, Meredith Darrah, is a senior studying community and public health and currently serves in the Air Force National Guard. When beginning her colligate career, Darrah did not know there were resources available to student veterans and active-duty service members. So, when she began working at the Veterans Center, she had a mission to help other students learn about the Center’s benefits.
“I care a lot about community outreach,” Darrah said. “So reaching out to people that might be too afraid to come in and ask for help and helping those who are in the same situations.”
In addition to providing a safe space and support to veterans and military-affiliated students, the Veterans Center organizes events to educate and establish its presence in the community.
Thursday, Nov. 9, student veterans will be tabling for the “Patch Drive” in Baker’s 3rd Floor Atrium from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to stop to thank a veteran and, if they’re able, share a patch from their unit or that of a family member. The Center will display all donated patches on a patch wall that hangs in the office to build community rapport and create a sense of inclusion among veteran and military-affiliated students.
“We can show where our students are coming from, what kind of units they've served in,” St. Peter said. “It'll give a sense of inclusion when you come in and see, ‘Hey, I'm not the only one from that unit. Look, there's somebody [else] here, because that's not my patch.’”
Barnes sees the unity the Veterans Center has created; the upcoming event will amplify it more.
“We've got like a diverse crew in there; we've got someone for everything,” Barnes said of the Center. “Some are National Guard, reservist, active duty.”
Following Veterans Day, President Lori Stewart Gonzalez is hosting a breakfast for all military-connected students, faculty, staff and their families on Nov. 11 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at 29 Park Place. The Veterans Day Parade kicks off at 10:15 a.m. and will make its way from the Athens Armory (2 W. Carpenter St.) down Court Street into College Green. At 11:11 a.m., Capt. (Ret.) Jeff Linscott, U.S. Navy, will take the stage at the West Portico of Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium to give a guest speech.
Later this month, the Center will host its 3rd annual #Stop17 event in Baker’s 3rd Floor Atrium on Nov. 16 and 17 to raise awareness about the 17 U.S. veterans who take their own lives every day.
“We're asking folks to come by to do 17 exercises of their choice,” St. Peter said. “Seventeen exercises in solidarity with and in honor of the 17 veterans that we're going to lose [that day]. Then, once they do that, we provide a T-shirt. On that T-shirt, it emphasizes that we support veterans, but most importantly, on the back of that shirt is [information about] the 988 emergency line, press one for veterans.”
Raegan Carroll, a sophomore studying communications, participated in #Stop17 last year. She received a T-shirt and a bracelet, both with the emergency phone number printed on them. Eventually, she gifted the bracelet to her dad, who served in the Army for 20 years. She said this event is particularly special to her, because she can see the good that comes from it.
“My dad has been out of the Army for almost 18 years and had his first big PTSD attack earlier last year … and [he] just so happened to still be wearing my bracelet. [He called] them, sat on the phone with the services that they had provided for those people for hours,” Carroll said. “Had I not willy-nilly picked that up and handed it to him, he probably would not have known what to do.”
Disclaimer: This story and affiliated programs are not endorsed by any service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.