Grace College Student Veterans Organization
It has been said that bravery is having the clearest vision of what lies ahead, glory and danger alike, and yet to go out and meet it. “Bravery” defines the life of a person who sacrifices everything to fight for our country in the U.S. military. It defines the lives of families who have a dad, brother or sister serving in faraway lands, facing danger and risking lives for justice and freedom, as a soldier, pilot, sailor or marine. It defines the kids of the soldier who is suddenly deployed and has to move hundreds of miles away and uproot his family yet again. It defines the young wife who does not know all the details of what her husband does or the danger that he’s in.
In light of the unique life that military veterans and dependents lead, Grace College has started for the first time, a Student Veterans Organization (SVO) for any campus veterans or military “brats.” The group meets at least three to four times a semester and discusses the benefits of military members such as the GI bill. They also discuss their unique backgrounds.
“Each member has a special outlook gained from their time in the service or traveling with their military family,” says the group’s president, Wayne Thomas. “Though we started out having only a few members to share stories with, we have seen substantial growth in membership.” He says that the difficulty in finding some veterans is the fact that some are no longer using their VA Educational Benefits. For instance, some members served in Vietnam and as such have used all of their available GI Bill. “Currently we have 28 veterans on campus, including the ones in GOAL and other distance learning programs,” says Thomas.
Thomas, along with the vice president, Dave Sumpter, served in the US Navy. “I was on the USS Alaska, a Ballistic Nuclear Submarine. [Sumpter] was a corpsman. Both of us moved from coast to coast during our service.” The other leaders of the group include John McStay, an Air Force veteran, and Scott Shaffer, the Assistant Registrar, as the advisor.
“Because the guys in the group are actually soldiers, SVO is a place I can go and feel at home and comfortable,” said Joy Graham, whose father, Captain William “Billy” Graham, is a chaplain in the National Guard. “It was nice to come to college and not feel like I had to quit my entire army life cold turkey. SVO gave me a chance to talk about my life in the military and have someone understand- without having to explain all the crazy military acronyms.” Graham has moved 18 times in her 19 years of life. She has lived everywhere from Kentucky to Korea.
“It’s nice to have someone who totally understands where you come from and where you have been,” agrees military dependent Samantha Muntz. “It’s especially nice to have someone to lean on right now, because my dad is getting deployed again. While other people try to understand, there is just something about talking to someone who has been there and felt exactly what you are feeling.”
The group was recently given a lounge in the GRC complete with new leather couches, flat screen T.V, computer room, fully stocked kitchen and a dining room table. It is a place that any of the veterans or military dependents can go any time to study, watch T.V or just be together- sort of a home away from home.