Today is Veterans Day and it never fails to remind me of the time my husband served in the U.S. Air Force. 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 left 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 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.
There’s an incredibly innovative program run by MSU Extension that teaches veterans how to be beekeepers. We’re saving the bees and helping veterans heal all at the same time.
As we mark Veterans Day today, it’s the perfect time to highlight the work Spartans are doing to help those who are and were in the military. 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.
Jeremy Blaney, an MSU alumnus and Air Force veteran says, “The Spartan network and their services have been there for me throughout my in-service and post-service journey.” He recently penned a blog entry to help an initiative to raise funds that support Spartan veterans.
Nursing student and ROTC cadet Jessica Smith says her career trajectory was set from childhood. She knew she wanted to become a military nurse. She was accepted into the college as part of an agreement with the Army and Air Force ROTCs. Read her story on the College of Nursing’s website to learn more about her and the college’s commitment to supporting her education and goals.
It’s our duty to support all students and help them succeed as college students. Each one has a unique background and set of circumstances that led them to MSU. Many are the first in their families to attend college, which can present many challenges. Read the MSUTODAY FEATURE: First-generation students forge successful paths to read some inspiring stories from some of these determined Spartans.
Imagine serving as an avionics mechanic in Iraq in the U.S. Army National Guard and also keeping up with your MSU classes remotely. That’s exactly what Casey Mossholder, J-School student who returned home recently from a year-long tour, did. Read more about this dedicated and inspiring Spartan on the School of Journalism website.
Today is 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.
Lisa MulcroneEditor, MSUToday