CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Nov. 7, 2013 – Former U.S. Marine Corporal and Riverside, Calif., resident Dolph “D.J.” Booth says Southeast Missouri State University’s Office of Military and Veterans Services “has given me the brotherhood I thought I’d never find again.”
An infantryman who completed tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Booth arrived at Southeast Missouri State University in August to begin a new mission – as a civilian, a veteran and a student.
A social work major, Booth had never really entertained the notion of pursuing a college degree. After all, he’s spent the past couple of years going door to door in Afghanistan “looking for the bad guys” and seeking out intelligence on the Taliban in an effort to secure them as detainees. He’s also helped train the Iraqi police.
His battalion suffered 23 deaths and 200 were wounded.
“I never really thought I would go to college,” he said, but acknowledged his mother’s pursuit of higher education that allows her to now serve as an Army medic helped propel him. “I’m glad I went to the service, though. Now, I see how important it is to get a college degree and a master’s degree.”
Now a civilian, Dolph is making the transition to Southeast Missouri State University, where he is employed in a student work study position in the Office of Military and Veterans Services. Here, he assists other veterans who are now students with their needs. He says the position allows him to talk to other students “with common ground and common situations.”
Also employed in the office is Curtis Moore, a freshman criminal justice major and a 2006 graduate of Jackson (Mo.) High School. A former U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, Moore served six years, primarily in air traffic control, and also was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to being stationed in Korea and Turkey.
“When I got out of the military, it was hard to adjust,” he said. Southeast’s Office of Military and Veterans Services “was just a good point of contact to get situated and enrolled in school” because “they know where you’re coming from. It’s just really helpful to get assistance. That’s what a lot of veterans do. It’s a one-stop shop, and it makes the transition a lot easier.”
Student Veterans Organization
Moore serves as treasurer of a rejuvenated Student Veterans Organization (SVO) on campus. Enrollment in Southeast’s SVO has doubled to about 50 since last spring, he said, adding he recently attended a summit of other campus SVOs to learn about best practices.
“Hopefully, we can become a thriving organization,” Moore said.
Jeremy McBroom, director of the Office of Military and Veterans Services, says, “The Student Veterans Organization plays an integral role for our student veterans. It offers peer support and camaraderie that cannot be duplicated outside of the veteran population.”
Veterans Day Celebrations
The Office of Military and Veterans Services in coordination with the Student Veterans Organization is sponsoring a Veteran’s Day Celebration Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 8 in the University Center Ballroom B. The luncheon, McBroom says, will be a casual opportunity to meet with and thank military veterans and their family members for supporting the country. The event is open to all faculty, staff, military and veteran students along with their spouses and dependents.
Also in honor of Veterans’ Day, Southeast Athletics will host Military Appreciation Day during the Redhawks football game at Missouri Army National Guard Field at Houck Stadium on Nov. 9, sponsored by the Missouri National Guard. As a thank you for service to the country, all active, reserve or veteran military personnel with a service I.D. can receive two free tickets to the game. The Redhawks host Ohio Valley Conference opponent Tennessee Tech, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. Various veterans and military tributes will be held throughout the game, and the Redhawks will wear special edition camouflage jerseys.
Office of Military and Veterans Services
These events, in addition to the Office of Military and Veterans Services, are a targeted approach by Southeast Missouri State to actively and warmly welcome veterans and active military to the campus. At the helm of the newly created Office of Military and Veterans Services and the advisor to the Student Veterans Organization is McBroom. He and the office he leads have just completed its first year of operation at Southeast, where it serves more than 400 military veterans, dependents and spouses. “People are finding us here” in Brandt Hall Room 110, he said. “It’s a good location. It’s central to the campus.” McBroom, a seasoned veteran with 17 years of military service to his credit, is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, having most recently completed two years as battalion communications officer, earning two Meritorious Service Medals with the U.S. Army at Fort Hood, Texas, and in Kuwait. He was responsible for managing more than 425 pieces of automated information system equipment across three locations – Kuwait, Qatar and Kyrgyzstan – allowing the battalion to complete its wartime mission of supporting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
McBroom says Southeast’s Office of Military and Veterans Services “takes care of military and veteran students from prospect to graduation.” He says he helps veterans who are now Southeast students with federal and state tuition assistance, Veterans Administration benefits and scholarships, and aligning them with appropriate campus services, such as the Academic Support Centers, Counseling Services and Career Services. The office also refers veteran students to various veterans’ service organizations in the area. McBroom also conducts workshops to acclimate faculty to teaching students in their classes who are former members of the military. “We cannot do enough for military veterans, their spouses and dependents,” McBroom says. “We are focused and driven to provide them with the best support possible.” McBroom provides leadership in the development of recruitment and support programs for students who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces and for students who are currently serving in the military. He also is responsible for overseeing a University standing committee to coordinate services for these student populations as well as their dependents and spouses. The Office of Military and Veterans Services also researches and advocates for opportunities to implement veterans-friendly policies, procedures, processes, events and support services, and host events and workshops for active-duty military and veterans. In addition, the office assists in the research and development of grant applications and other external funding proposals related to veterans initiatives. The Office of Military and Veterans Services is in the process of hiring a military and veterans outreach coordinator. This person, McBroom says, will represent the University at off-campus recruiting events, targeting military personnel and veterans at locations such as Fort Leonard Wood, Scott Air Force Base and Fort Campbell. This staff member will serve as an admissions counselor of sorts. McBroom says he hopes these efforts will boost enrollment of military personnel and veteran students by next fall. Southeast officials also are hoping a new tuition rate for non-Missouri residents who are active duty military or veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces will attract them to enroll, as veterans continue flocking to colleges and universities with the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In February, the Southeast Board of Regents approved an incidental fee rate equal to the in-state incidental fee rate for this group, including members of the National Guard or Reserves, their spouses and dependents. The new rate took effect this fall. University officials say the new fee rate underscores Southeast’s commitment to providing a supportive environment for military students and assists in repaying them for service to our country.
SHOW-ME GOLD ProgramIn addition to the new tuition rate and the creation of the Office of Military and Veterans Services, Southeast and the Missouri Army National Guard entered into an agreement last year to launch a SHOW-ME GOLD officer training program that began at Southeast this fall.
The Missouri Army National Guard Officer Leadership Program (SHOW-ME GOLD) offers citizens of Missouri the opportunity for professional development to become commissioned officers in the Missouri Army National Guard. The officer training program consists of credit-bearing classroom instruction, leadership laboratories and physical conditioning training. Missouri Army National Guard CPT. Tyson Mele, who previously served as a company commander at a hospital for wounded warriors at Fort Sam Houston Joint Base in San Antonio, Texas, is based at Southeast and is recruiting students, leading an academic program and providing instruction for cadets. The SHOW-ME GOLD program has 30 Candidates enrolled at Southeast this fall with 20 additional Candidates expected next spring. Mele, who chairs Southeast’s Department of Military Science, says the original goal was to enroll 25 in the program in its first year. Recruitment at high schools, junior colleges and community colleges as well as with current members of the military has definitely exceeded expectations. “There is a high unemployment rate of junior enlisted soldiers coming back from the war efforts,” he said. “Educating them to be productive in the workplace” is paramount. “We are always going to promote education,” Mele said. “We are a profession of arms. This is part of our holistic approach.” Southeast’s SHOW-ME GOLD program is similar to other Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs such as the Air Force ROTC program at Southeast. Student participants in the program must satisfy admissions standards of both Southeast Missouri State and the Missouri Army National Guard. Those who qualify for any of Southeast’s merit–based scholarships are eligible to receive the full value of this scholarship in addition to other financial benefits received as a result of the student’s service in the Missouri Army National Guard. Additionally, students who live in on-campus housing receive a $2,000 award to be used toward Residence Life room and board costs. “College becomes affordable with that kind of assistance,” Mele said. “Our students are doing well academically,” Mele said. Students enroll in Southeast’s regular academic programs, but also take credit-bearing leadership courses offered through the Department of Military Science and fulfill other additional requirements. Graduates of the SHOW-ME GOLD Program, who can earn a minor in military science, complete a two- to eight-year term of service upon graduating, during which participants will secure civilian jobs, drill on weekends and train with the Missouri Army National Guard.
Southeast’s SHOW-ME GOLD Offices are located next door to the Office of Military and Veterans Services in Brandt Hall Room 108. Eventually, Southeast’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 205, which currently has 23 cadets enrolled, may relocate to Brandt as well, bringing all of the University’s military initiatives under one roof. Detachment 205 currently is housed in the General Services 2 Building. In the meantime, Southeast’s Office of Military and Veterans Services will continue its outreach to service veterans and military personnel seeking a college education. Moore says that upon graduating from Southeast, he plans to return to military service, but this time as an officer. As a criminal justice major, he would like to train canines to sniff out improvised explosive devices, an area he became interested in while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military service becomes a way of life for those who have the opportunity to experience it, Moore says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I’d do it all over again,” he said. Military service “is for the central purpose. We are loyal folks. We grow from it.”