The Daily Illini

Editorial: Welcoming a deserved safe-haven for student veterans

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

Members and veterans of the U.S. military are some of the most well-respected people in the nation; maybe even the world. Yet, for years veterans — especially those with disabilities — who have attended the University have not had an adequate place to call their own.

On Thursday, the newly constructed Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education will have its first open house, and veterans with disabilities at the University will finally have a place on campus that’s just theirs.

Disability Resources and Educational Services was originally established in 1948 by Tim Nugent, a University alumnus and veteran, solely to serve veterans with disabilities. Over time, however, DRES has become a resource for all students with disabilities. It’s excellent that our University provides incredible resources like DRES for students, but veterans deserve a place just for them.

“Our veterans are looking for a community, and our center provides that. They will be in an environment with peers who they can relate to,” said Nicholas Osborne, interim director of the new center.

The new center will give veterans who are disabled a place to connect with other people who have experienced the hardship of military service and who are experiencing the transition back into civilian life — or who have already experienced it and can provide guidance.

“A lot of veterans haven’t had any pure education for five to seven years,” said Garrett Anderson, a veteran and a graduate student in the College of Applied Health Sciences. “When they get here, it’s like throwing them from a pond to a lake or an ocean because they’re overwhelmed.”

The vision of the University’s Veterans Student Support Services is “for student Veterans, active duty personnel, National Guards and Reserve members, and their qualifying dependents to succeed at Illinois and reach their full potential as ethical leaders and engaged citizens,” according to its web site.

The Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education will finally fully provide those resources as it offers transition help, counseling, academic services, class courses and employment services.

Everyone deserves a place to connect with people who know what they’re going through. Especially those who risked their lives for the sake of their country. And now, whether it be a conversation about their time in the service or an event on the Main Quad, the veterans will know they have a shared background.

The center will serve an estimated 350 student veterans and 150 dependents in an effort to help them reach their full potential, while at the University and after. The center will also house up to 12 veterans, literally making it a place to call home for some.

The creation of the new center is long overdue but well-deserved. We are glad veterans with disabilities will have a “one-stop shop” to access resources, receive help or just connect with a familiar story.

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