Nov. 6, 2019
Wow, we were really young. I was technically still a teenager when my new husband and I were shipped off to South Dakota so he could begin his assignment at Ellsworth Air Force Base. He had reported for basic training just two weeks after we were married and then we were off on our own to an unfamiliar place not knowing what to expect.
All of it was hard. We were adjusting to married life, we didn’t know anyone, money was tight, we were working and going to school and the weather could be brutal. For me, I took an exhausting job waiting tables with long nights and low pay.
There were days that food on the table or gas in the car only happened if my tips were good. We struggled to pay our bills and had nothing leftover for emergencies or fun. Our car was once buried under snow and we were without heat and power for days during a blizzard where windchills dipped to -50 degrees. During the summer, we sweated without air conditioning in 100-degree heat.
We missed our family and friends and would drive home 24 hours straight during the holiday season because we couldn’t afford a hotel for the night. For my husband, there was no option of working remotely, being late, flexing his time or wearing what he wanted. When you’re in the military, you do exactly what you’re told.
And we were the lucky ones. Because he had some college under his belt already, he entered at a higher rank and was assigned a good job as a base journalist. His hours were pretty regular, and he never had to report overseas to any combat zone. We were never separated for more than a few weeks, though one of those times during his reserve duty I was seven months pregnant with no idea where in the world he was other than somewhere across the ocean.
It made us strong and we served our country. I say, “we,” because military families make a lot of sacrifices too. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have your loved one in a combat zone facing incredible danger and an uncertain future. Even when they return, they might have life-changing injuries. And not all injuries are physical — sometimes the damage to the psyche is even more difficult to manage.
When his active duty tour ended, we returned to MSU to finish our degrees. One thing we never gave up was our determination to graduate college as proud Spartans.
I’m still a proud Spartan and that’s why I was so incredibly moved to learn about what Spartans are doing to help veterans in a lot of different ways. Here on campus, the Student Veterans Resource Center is currently serving more than 2,000 military-affiliated families. Re-entry into civilian life isn’t easy. I’m so glad we have people on campus to make it easier.
We’re also leading programs to help combat veterans. We’re the first university in the country to offer a special combat-veterans certificate program in social work. It’s an incredible program that utilizes veterans' firsthand experiences to teach students.
We also run an incredibly innovative program that teaches veterans how to be beekeepers. We’re saving the bees and helping veterans heal all at the same time.
As we approach Veterans Day, it’s the perfect time to highlight the work Spartans are doing to help veterans. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Serving those who served, to learn more about how researchers, educators and staff are dedicated to helping combat veterans and MSU students succeed back on home soil.
Tina Thompson, a senior clinical instructor of social work, knows exactly the sacrifices military families make. Her husband struggled with suicidal thoughts after serving as a Marine in combat. As the coordinator of the social work certificate program, her work is deeply personal. Read her moving FACULTY VOICE: Helping veterans in need, to learn more about her family’s experiences.
Sophomore Jack Kivi’s path to becoming a Spartan is a little different than most. He joined the Marine Corps Reserve before coming to campus. Now, majoring in neuroscience, he has been awarded the Commandant's Trophy, awarded to the top graduate of each Officer Candidates School class. Read his STUDENT VIEW: What it means to be a Spartan and a Marine, to learn about his experiences and why he says that “the quality of our character as Spartans is determined by helping others when we can.”
There are probably more veterans around campus than anyone is aware of. Christopher Mancuso is a postdoctoral researcher in MSU’s Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering. He joined the Marines where he did intelligence. It was during a tour in Iraq while reading Scientific American magazine that he became interested in physics. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Computing for a cause, to learn how he’s using data-driven models to study genes in diseases and why he believes his experiences as a veteran and first-generation college student offer a unique opportunity for him to serve as a mentor for undergrads.
That’s how a lot of vets are — looking for new ways to serve and give back. Like 96-year-old Ceo Bauer who served in World War II and wounded in combat. He returned to MSU and earned a degree in civil engineering. He has made an annual gift to MSU every year for 68 years, making him one of MSU’s longest-running annual donors. Because to him, being a Spartan means never forgetting your commitment to service.
Veterans Day is next Monday. It’s not just a day where the mail doesn’t run and government offices are closed. It’s a day to recognize and thank all those who served, whether they’re Spartans or not. Thank their families too because, as I said, all of it is hard. But every day, follow the lead of these Spartans who served and help others, find ways to heal those who are hurting, be a mentor, challenge yourself to find solutions and never ever forget your commitment as a Spartan to make this world a better place. #SpartansWill.