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A Message from the President: Veterans Contribute Much to UW Community

November 11, 2015

By President Dick McGinity

As a military veteran and president of the University of Wyoming, I’m proud to take a few moments on Veterans Day 2015 to salute the men and women who have served and are serving our nation in the armed forces -- and to make note of the importance of veterans who study and work at the university.

Veterans comprise a key, and growing, part of the UW community. We now have more than 600 veterans and military dependents attending UW, and that number is expected to continue to grow. Here in Wyoming and nationwide, more emphasis is being placed on the need for higher education, and the country expects to see an increase of up to 50 percent in the veteran and military dependent student population over the next five years.

UW is making a particular effort to recruit more veterans. With authorization from the Legislature, we offer in-state tuition to military veterans from out of state to attend UW. In addition, dependents of qualifying veterans are eligible for in-state tuition. We’re excited about this program and hope it will bring many more veterans to the university.

A big reason we want more veterans to attend UW is the skill set that they gain from service in the armed forces. Those skills include self-discipline, courage, determination, critical thinking, leadership ability, confidence, loyalty, planning and coordination. Veterans know the importance of teamwork, and that how well the team does as a whole it more important than how they do individually. Veterans have a work ethic. They have a sense of responsibility and duty. They know the importance of being resilient – of accepting the fact that you’re going to make mistakes and misjudgments, and that you have to recover from them, learn from the lessons and move forward.

Those are assets that pave the way for veterans to excel as students, citizens and leaders. For the same reason, the university has taken steps to hire more veterans as well.

Increasing diversity at UW is an objective most of us share, but we often think of diversity only in racial and ethnic terms. Diversity of experience also is important. And veterans bring a wide variety of experiences, benefitting the entire university community.

My service as a Naval aviator during the Vietnam War profoundly affected my life and taught me lessons that I still use today. I know about the pride that comes from military service -- along with the many physical and psychological challenges that can haunt some of our veterans for a lifetime. I also know what it’s like to transition from the very structured lifestyle in the military to the very loose structure of civilian life -- and especially that of a college student.

I hope that our veterans will take advantage of the services and benefits available to them, both here on campus and elsewhere. On campus, we are very proud of our Veterans Services Center, which opened in 2010 with a focus on assisting veterans in making the transition from military to civilian student life. The VSC accommodates more than 5,600 visitors per year and has expanded its programming to 36 social and academic events and activities for military veterans and military dependent students and families.

The VSC provides a study area, student lounge with a large-screen television, student computer lab, refreshments, and many other student amenities and activities. Marty Martinez, a 29-year retired veteran, is UW’s VSC project coordinator. In large measure because of the efforts of the VSC, UW has been designated as a “Top School” in the Military Advanced Education’s “Guide to Colleges and Universities.” The guide measures best practices in military and veterans education.

It is heartening to see that when it comes to providing support for veterans, our nation in many respects has learned from the mistakes that were made when I and other Vietnam veterans returned from our service.

I was in my early 20s and had just finished my bachelor’s degree in history when Vietnam intervened in my life. I went through flight school in 1966 and 1967. Following navigation school, I joined my squadron in the summer of 1968. The squadron I joined was home-based at Moffett Field in the Bay Area of California. I made three deployments to Vietnam between 1968 and 1971.

I went through flight school with nine other men, and only I and one other of that group did not crash or get shot down at least once. Two did not make it. My college roommate -- we were in flight school at the same time -- was killed in an accident.

On this Veterans Day, during a year when we mark the 50th anniversary of the start of major ground combat in Vietnam -- and the 40th anniversary of the evacuation of Saigon -- I can’t help but think back on my experience in Southeast Asia, and those we lost in that conflict. They, and those who perished in military conflicts before and after, have left our nation a tremendous legacy. So have those who served and returned to their homes, jobs and studies.

We must make sure their sacrifice is never forgotten, and that our institutions show the same commitment to them that they made to our nation. I’m proud that the University of Wyoming is working hard to do its part in fulfilling that responsibility.

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