The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the University of Wyoming
University of Wyoming
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
By Micaela Myers
“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave,” wrote journalist Elmer Davis (1890-1958).
There is no doubt we owe our veterans a debt of gratitude for their service. In order to better meet the needs of these heroes at home, the University of Wyoming offers programs and services to support the hundreds of veterans attending school and working at UW.
While you may not know who they are, the veterans of UW are sitting next to you in class, they are student leaders, they are behind the scenes helping to make the university run, and they are even preparing to re-enter service and continue defending the country as newly commissioned officers.
“In the military you’re a community, and you support each other,” says veteran Lisa Ohnstad, originally from Westin, Wyo. Ohnstad, whose husband is currently an officer in the Wyoming National Guard, served in the guard for nearly five years and joined the Army ROTC program and then the Army National Guard Officer Candidate School when she came to UW. From there, she was directly commissioned by the Wyoming National Guard 187 AES Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, where she serves while working toward dual graduate degrees: a doctorate of pharmacy and an executive master’s of business. Ohnstad believes that the UW Veterans Services Center provides the sense of community veterans seek.
“When I first came to school I had a 1-year-old baby, and my ROTC fellow cadets always helped me out. That continues on with the veterans center,” Ohnstad says.
“The center does a ton for veterans on campus,” says veteran Tyler Long, originally from Craig, Colo. Long did two overseas deployments in the U.S. Navy. He says that for veterans needing help with benefits or any other issue, the center gets answers. It also provides a place to study and connect. “All my friends I’ve developed in college have been at the Veterans Services Center,” he adds.
The veterans also help one another succeed in school. “The Veterans Services Center opened my freshman year, and if it hadn’t been for the Veterans Services Center, I don’t think I would have done as well as I did,” says Long, who is a junior majoring in history with a minor in creative writing. “I made honor roll my first semester. Anytime I needed help there was someone at the center.”
Marty Martinez, project coordinator for the Veterans Services Center, estimates there are 550 to 600 veterans attending UW. The center, which was recommended by the UW Veterans Task Force along with other initiatives, opened in 2010 through a grant and ongoing support from the Marna M. Kuehne Foundation.
“We needed to provide our student veterans an opportunity to connect with other veterans on campus and rebuild that feeling of camaraderie and teamwork so they’re not feeling alone,” Martinez says.
In addition to the center, Martinez oversees the UW Veterans Program, which focuses on assisting student veterans in transitioning from military to student life. As part of the Veterans Program, UW also offers a Veterans Transition Course and student-led veterans groups that aim to bring veterans together. Long is vice president of the Student Veterans Organization, a campus recognized student group that advocates for veterans’ needs on campus.
Ohnstad co-founded L.A.C.E.S. (Leadership, Academics, Camaraderie, Exercise, Service) to support the approximately 100 female veterans attending UW with workshops on topics such as stress management, resume improvement and financial planning. “Megan Lucas and I are both Tillman Military Scholars, and we were discussing what made us successful here at UW,” Ohnstad explains. “We wanted to pass on the tools that we gained to other women veterans.”
Like a number of other veterans on campus, Long is training to be an officer as a member of the Army ROTC Cowboy Battalion. Of the 122 current ROTC Cowboy Battalion cadets, about 35 have prior service, says Lt. Col. Mitch Day, professor of military science and commander of the Army ROTC.
“They learn about ROTC and decide to take their base leadership to the next level,” Day says.
Famous graduates of UW’s Army ROTC program, established in 1891, include former Army Chief of Staff Pete Schoomaker and former Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee.
UW is also home to Detachment 940 of the Air Force ROTC, established in 1952, which prepares men and women to assume positions of increasing responsibility in the modern U.S. Air Force. There are currently 41 active cadets. UW graduate Maj. Gen. Susan Pamerleau (’68) became the first woman to command the Air Force ROTC, and then went on to be elected the first female sheriff of Bexar County, Texas.
In addition to supporting student veterans, UW is committed to hiring veterans. “We are increasing our efforts to recruit veterans and people with disabilities,” says Mandy Watson, recruitment supervisor in UW’s human resources office.
The university is already home to many veterans who work in staff and faculty positions, including Mark Sherrodd, assistant manager at the UW Central Energy Plant. Sherrodd was recruited from Gillette, Wyo., out of high school to wrestle for UW. However, six weeks after enrolling, he decided to join the Marine Corps and served as an electrician from 1982-87.
With one year left to serve, Sherrodd suffered a major injury. “On a training exercise, I had a magnesium flare blow up on me, which ended up burning over 30 percent of my body with third-degree burns,” he explains. “After about a month and a half they put me back to work, and it was good for my rehabilitation to stay active.”
A desire to finish what he started called Sherrodd back to UW. Part of that meant rejoining the wrestling team. “I was ranked No. 1 in the Western Athletic Conference at one time,” Sherrodd says. “I wrestled under coach Steve Suder, who ended up being a good friend and awesome role model.”
“I remember Mark coming in right out of recovering,” says Suder, former wrestling coach and current coordinator of student advising at UW. “I just saw this guy coming in with the experiences that he had—his military experiences, his burn experience. I thought, you don’t get too many guys with that degree of maturity walking in your door. I remember being impressed with him from the very beginning.”
Sherrodd earned two degrees at UW—one in trade and industry education and the other in industrial technology education. He also met his wife, Lisa, in Laramie. Their careers took them to Cheyenne and then Rapid City, S.D., before returning to work at UW three years ago.
“It’s a good system that we wanted to be a part of,” Sherrodd says. He hopes their twin daughters, who started high school this year, will attend UW too.
“I like working at the university,” he says. “It challenges me and gives me a creative outlet for the skills I’ve learned. I feel like I’m contributing.”
“I think that Mark is a perfect example of the kind of personal interest story we’re looking for to help increase awareness around campus,” Watson says. “Veterans and persons with disabilities are part of the workforce and the university community as a whole. With his passion for UW and the fact he’s a fantastic employee—we’re proud to have him as part of our vision.”
Talking to UW’s veterans, one thing is clear: They are making an impact at the university and beyond.
Long hopes to become an armor officer. “Because of my education, my prior enlistment and my time in ROTC, I’m going to be able to better interact with my soldiers when I get to a unit,” he says.
“After I graduate, I’d really like to stay in Wyoming,” Ohnstad says. “I’d like to make some positive changes to health care in rural areas. Here in Wyoming, we need rural health care, and it’s stepping up and saying, ‘Yes, we can do it.’ ”