By Lori Dresner, Managing Editor/News Editor
With approximately 350 of them on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus, the student veteran community makes up a good portion of the UMSL student body. To welcome both new and returning student veterans and raise awareness about their presence on campus, the UMSL Veterans Center held Veteran Resource Day and annual barbecue on campus on September 1.
Veteran Resource Day kicked off at 11 a.m. with an information session at the Veterans Center in 211 Clark Hall.  Health and education representatives of the Veterans Administration (VA), representatives of the Vet Center, a psychological help center for veterans, and healthcare professionals were all present to answer questions and help connect veterans with resources and services. The information session was well-attended and full all morning.
Later in the day, student veterans came out for the Veterans Center’s third annual barbecue in the North Campus Quad from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. In attendance were representatives from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Pathfinder Foundation, social workers from Washington University, workers from Career Services, and several other services on campus. Small clusters of people gathered to enjoy food and drinks and speak with the representatives of these organizations, as well as staff from the Veterans Center itself.
Jim Craig, Department Chair of Military and Veterans Studies and associate teaching professor, explained that the barbecue served two main purposes. He said, “The first thing really is to get veterans together and to show them that there’s other veterans around because a lot of them don’t even realize it. Often you can’t identify a student veteran just from far away, right? So they don’t
know that there’s vets around.
“The other thing that this serves is to remind the campus that there’s [350] veterans on campus, and that’s a pretty big block, and they’re good people and they’re good students and they’re doing well. So that’s why we do this, and that’s why we do it right out here in the middle of the Quad.”
Craig said that there is only a two-year difference between the average age of student veterans at UMSL, 29 years old, and the age of the average UMSL student, which is 27 years old.
He continued, “Your vet students are graduating at a rate that’s equivalent with every other student. They’re not struggling in any different way than any other students, and in fact our vet students are really some of the best students on campus, some of the best students in your classrooms.”
Student veteran coordinator, Bob O’Neill, sophomore, pre-engineering, who is a veteran himself, was in charge of checking people in during the barbecue. When asked about what he would like for people to know about the student veterans on campus, O’Neill said, “Most veterans here are here to learn and make the most out of their time in school.”
Craig also wanted to remind people that UMSL made a financial and a space commitment to veterans three years ago and that that commitment has paid off.
He said, “Veterans are coming to this school… they’re graduating in numbers that we haven’t seen before. They’re enrolling in numbers we haven’t seen before and it’s the right group of people to support. These people will turn around and really be contributing members of our society…”
He added: “The word’s out that UMSL’s the place for vets.”
Representatives of veterans organizations speaking with attendees of the Veterans Center's annual barbecue. (Lori Dresner/The Current)
Representatives of veterans organizations speaking with attendees of the Veterans Center’s annual barbecue. (Lori Dresner/The Current)