Bridging the gap 

Efforts help veterans feel at home at Mizzou. 

Thank you cards for veterans
As part of Veterans Week at Mizzou, students created cards thanking veterans for their service. Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

By Jesse Berlin

Junior Kyle Andrews had long known he wanted to attend Mizzou when he finished his stint in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I chose Mizzou due its reputation for supporting veterans,” said Andrews, who applied during his deployment. “I met with a few different institutions at various college fairs on base, and Mizzou stuck out to me most.”

When Andrews arrived on campus, however, he knew he was different. While most of his classmates were fresh out of high school, Andrews had already attended community college and spent five years in the Marines. Fortunately for him, help was waiting.

“Oftentimes, a student veteran might find himself or herself isolated among students,” said MU Veterans Center Director Robert Ross. “Many of our student veterans and service members are non-traditional students, and many of them are first generation students.”

The Veterans Center helps those students feel at home at Mizzou. It serves as a one-stop shop where they can spend time with other veterans and receive a variety of resources and support.

“The Veterans Center is a way of finding family or connections through Mizzou people who had similar experiences,” Ross said.

The Mizzou Student Veterans Association (MSVA) also helps student veterans adapt to college life by giving them opportunities to make connections, succeed academically, access benefits and find outlets for community involvement.

Andrews is currently treasurer for the group. Through his involvement, he aims to help ease the transition for student veterans.

“From my first breath to my last one, I’ll never forget that what I’m doing is for somebody else,” Andrews said. “I want to try to do the best I can. You have the opportunity here to change the world, so why not put your best effort to it?”

A Mizzou student creates a thank-you card for veterans
The Campus Activities Programming Board gave students opportunity to reach out to veterans and thank them for their service. Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

A third way Mizzou helps bridge the gap between student veterans and their classmates is Veterans Week, a series of veterans-related events during the week of Veterans Day.

“It helps foster an inclusive environment for veterans,” said sophomore Kelly Gillespie, who oversees veterans programming for the Campus Activities Programming Board. “We want to make everybody feel like MU is home.”

This year, Gillespie collaborated with MSVA, ROTC and the Veterans Center to put Veterans Week together. Veterans Week 2021 featured a blood drive, the Military Appreciation Football Game, and an event at which students made thank-you cards for veterans.

Nov. 11 saw a wreath-laying ceremony at Memorial Union, to honor those who went away and never became back, Ross said. “That’s the ultimate sacrifice.”

All these efforts reassure Andrews that he made the right choice. “I try and help other veterans with finding the right school and I always push Mizzou,” he said. “The educational and career opportunities are incredible and there is always something to do.”

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