Garland creates community as outlet for student veterans

When Chad Garland first came to the University, he was told that there was a group for everyone.

Despite having more than 1,000 registered student organizations, he felt one was missing for a specific group of people: student veterans.

“I would say that the average age of a veteran at this school is around 24-25,” said Garland, senior in LAS and former president of the Illini Veterans.

Garland came to the University when he was 29 years old. He, along with most other veterans, started school at a much older age than the rest of the undergraduate body. According to Garland, the age gap and the very different experiences of veterans can make it hard to feel like a part of the community. This is why other student veterans, like Garland, say that the Illini Veterans’ biggest accomplishment has been creating a social group for veterans.

“(Garland) has been instrumental in creating a community for veterans on campus,” said Andrew Kennedy, graduate student and the new president of the Illini Veterans.

Ed Maher, senior in LAS, also praised Garland’s leadership.

“From what he has done interacting between the faculty, student body and veterans themselves, he has been instrumental in creating a group for veterans to interact with people who have shared similar experiences,” Maher said.

Garland said the meetings and events that the group has organized has helped veterans become acclimated to the campus, and the club has helped veterans find their niche.

Though Garland did not start the group, since taking over in September 2010, he has put in countless hours to improve the group’s presence.

“When I took over as president, there were maybe 30-something people in the group,” he said. “Now there are 105 on our mailing list.”

Garland prided himself on putting in a lot of time to spreading the word and raising awareness about the group across campus.

“The biggest thing I think we’ve accomplished is establishing a community for veterans to go to for both help and as a social outlet, where there previously wasn’t one,” Garland said.

Garland also played a key role in starting a care package drive to troops overseas. Illini Veterans has prepared and shipped 25 care packages.

“It definitely gives a warm feeling to know someone cares, and that is the most important part of the care package,” Maher said.