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OC gets Student Veterans of America chapter

Oklahoma Christian University is adding a new club to the university’s extensive catalogue of associated organizations.

The Oklahoma Christian Student Veterans of America chapter is aimed at aiding student veterans in the transition from active military service to academic pursuits.

“I really don’t scream ouch unless something really hurt me,” Robert Washington, Army veteran and first-year student at Oklahoma Christian, said. “It’s good to know that there is a resource here on campus for military personnel instead of having to drive to Downtown Oklahoma City to the VA hospital.”

According to Nicole Carpenter, veterans affairs coordinator, approximately 29 students on Oklahoma Christian’s campus are either active military or veterans.

“Our active military and veteran students on campus are non-traditional students,” Carpenter said. “Some of them are older than the average student, some have families and it makes college harder on them. It’s not easy for them but they power through and it’s amazing.”

Student Veterans of America, better known as SVA, is a non-profit organization with national and local chapters throughout the United States.

“There’s a few of us and we really don’t fit in,” Leona Noe, Army veteran and a junior political science major at Oklahoma Christian, said. “There seems to be this disconnect, like the traditional college student doesn’t really understand.”

The new SVA chapter is addressing student veterans’ needs by making support, benefits information, career-building skills and service opportunities accessible to them.

“I usually come on campus, go to my classes and then go home,” Robert Washington said. “I appreciate that the organization gives me the ability to meet other veterans. We all have a common thread that we cannot find with just anybody.”

Don Drew, retired Air Force veteran and professor of international management and business, is sponsoring this new organization. Drew said he understands the difficulty for veterans to go back to school.

“Everybody’s military experience is the same, yet different for a lot of veterans,” Drew said. “To try and re-enter into a college life is a challenging atmosphere to assimilate into.”

The 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report, released by the Department of Veterans Affairs, showed that 34.6 percent of veterans utilize the GI Bill to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a higher education institute. The report also showed it can take up to two years longer for veterans to complete their degrees than it does a traditional, full-time student.

The SVA chapter provides military veterans with the resources to help them succeed in higher education and post-graduation. Eventually, those running the chapter said that they hope to make academic mentors and counseling services available for student veterans.

“It provides awareness to other students that you have students on campus who have out-of-the-normal circumstances,” Washington said. “I think it’s amazing that they’re starting this program. It’s good to know that I have the resource to go, should something happen to me. I see it as an outlet, a place to reset and take a knee when I need it.”

Washington, a freshman at age 36, said he joined the Army in 1998 with a plan to make the military his career. He planned on serving his 20 years, retiring and reaping the benefits. Washington said God had different plans for him because he was medically discharged from the service after 14 years.

“I’m hoping this club will help the active military and veterans on campus to know that there are people to lean on and rely on through those tough times,” Noe said. “There is comfort that can be given to those who need it.”

Noe said she has a passion to help veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

“Not to be too cliché, but the whole ‘OC is Home’ thing really helps,” Noe said. “I feel well-respected on campus. People on campus genuinely care. The students, faculty and staff work to genuinely help you.”

Carpenter said that veterans should be treated differently than other students.

“We should take pride in our military on campus and show our appreciation. They’ve done and sacrificed a lot for us,” Carpenter said

Oklahoma Christian student veterans can find out more about the chapter by following its Twitter account, @OC_SVA.

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