Concordia’s Veterans Center supports veterans who aspire to care for their own
The Concordia Courier
By Jenna Hoffman | 11/11/2022
Today is Veterans Day and the country and Concordia students alike are using the day to honor and celebrate the people who bravely served our country.
Concordia has worked hard to make the campus a welcoming and accommodating place for veterans. In fact, Concordia has received a “Military Friendly” status from the VIQTORY Military Marketing Network. The Director of Concordia’s Veterans Resource Center, Richard Lewis, said “‘Military Friendly’ is a registered trademark from a company that describes [the campus] as ‘the standard that measures an organization’s commitment, effort and success in creating sustainable and meaningful benefit for the military community.’” He continued that “the award takes into consideration veteran graduation rates, the size of the Veterans Center, and the incentives Concordia makes available beyond those covered by the GI Bill.”
Lewis knows about service firsthand. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2010, and became a paratrooper and combat cameraman. He was stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and had deployments and temporary duty assignments in West Africa and the Middle East.
A resource that Lewis said is extremely beneficial to student veterans is the Staff Sergeant Matthew Thompson Veterans Resource Center (VRC). The center “is open to military-connected students 24/7” and has “a no-questions-asked food pantry, school supplies, entertainment, free printing, work stations and acts as a sort of ‘home base’ for students.”
Lewis is also the “Certifying Official for VA benefits.” This means that he processes “all military-related benefits that students at Concordia use and ensure compliance with government agencies to keep veteran benefits available to students.” Lewis also focuses on “providing extra resources to students in extraordinary circumstances.” He added, “ I deal with students adjusting to civilian life who may have been to war, have families and need to balance childcare with school work. Veterans have very different needs than a typical college student and I specialize in identifying and providing solutions for those needs.” He said that overall his goal is to “remove barriers and stressors from students' lives outside of school so that they can focus their energy on academic success at Concordia.”
Senior Matthew Ryan is studying Behavioral Science with an emphasis in sociology and is a student veteran at Concordia. Ryan is 30 years old and plans to graduate in May 2023. Ryan said, “I served two enlistments for the Marine Corps. I was a Sergeant E-5. My Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) was a 3531 Motor-T Operator for the infantry unit: 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. I conducted convoys for logistic and combat focused operations. I was responsible for a platoon of 35 Marines and at one point I ran a larger platoon of 65.”
While in the Marines, Ryan said his responsibilities “were not only occupationally focused, but I would always argue that the most important part of my job was to maintain the welfare of my Marines in all aspects of their lives.”
Ryan said he enlisted for many reasons, but primarily, “It was because I wanted to have the ability to help people.”
Ryan is now using his time at Concordia to help people in a different way. “I came to Concordia because currently my main purpose in life is to help in the fight against veteran suicide,” Ryan explained. He said he chose Concordia because “I believe that religion is an essential part of people's identity, and I knew if I wanted to help people, I need to also understand spiritually and faith through the best school that understands how to teach it in a logical and applicable way to even those outside the faith.”
In the future, Ryan said, “I see myself continuing to study and look for avenues to work improving mental health in veteran communities. Service member and veteran suicide is unfortunately no stranger to most of us.” He added, “My first step off campus with my degree, I hope, will be preparing myself to fit into that area of behavioral interventionists and social workers. Honestly, any way that I can find to help.”
Reach out to a veteran in your life today and thank them for their service and bravery. If you are a veteran at Concordia looking for support and comradery, visit the VRC or contact Richard Lewis at email@example.com.
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