Tarleton groups help provide support, opportunities for student veterans
By Brandi Addison—
The Tarleton Veterans Association (TVA), the Student Social Work Association, and Dr. James Vardalis, Director of Military Veteran Services Center, are all at work helping student veterans at Tarleton.
Currently on all four Tarleton campuses, Fort Worth, Midlothian, Stephenville and Waco, there are about 460 students receiving veteran education benefits from the Veteran Affairs Department.
This past weekend, on the evening of Nov. 7, the TVA hosted the “Thank-a-Veteran” Dinner at City Limits. The proceeds benefitted the Disabled American Veterans and helped to award scholarships to the student veterans attending Tarleton.
Also there to honor the veterans were the Chris Kyle Foundation and the Stephenville Mayor Kenny Weldon.
TVA Public Relations Officer Delton Childers explained that one of the main reasons for this event, alongside honoring those who once served, was because “We’re trying to get the military prestige back to the college.”
“That’s what John Tarleton’s vision was—a military college—[and] that’s what we hope to accomplish,” Childers said.
In addition, the Student Social Work Association (SSWA) has chosen to recognize the veteran population on campus and is currently doing a study on the student military veteran population of Tarleton. Director of Disability Services Trina Geye and Assistant Professor of Social Work Francine Pratt came up with the idea. The SSWA hopes this study will give this particular population some voice and recognition, so they can learn how to better serve student veterans.
SSWA President Xavier Simon said, “I feel that the Veterans are an unheard voice in the student population with little advocacy.”
“[We want to] be sure the services offered are beneficial and effective, and most importantly, [has] each individual feel welcomed and cared about,” Simon said. “[The] group’s goal in this study is to establish ‘veteran-specific’ functions.’” This would include events such as priority registration and an orientation for veterans to inform them on different services at Tarleton.
Dr. James Vardalis, Director of Military Veteran Services Center (MVSC), spoke to Texan News about its role in helping student veterans.
“The MVSC is a new component for providing an excellent academic experience at Tarleton State University—about two years,” Vardalis said.
The MVSC currently provides a Veteran Affairs certification for veterans and veteran dependents. They also have an area for veterans to use laptops and study. Additionally, each semester the MVSC tries to host a come-and-go lunch for the student veterans at Tarleton.
They are currently working on a student veteran retention plan and a program to assist veteran students with navigating the university system.
“Our vision is to expand the center by providing an assortment of programs and services [to] ensure veteran student success and a timely graduation,” Vardalis said.
Vardalis is a Marine Corps Vietnam combat veteran and was a recipient of Veteran Affairs military educational benefits. He said he considered his role of Director of the MVSC as “an honor and an opportunity to support the men and women of the armed services.”
He said that without the assistance he received as VA educational benefits, his college education would not had been possible.
“My assignment often places me in situations that provide firsthand knowledge of the university’s sincere support and respect for veterans. It is abundantly clear to me that the administration at Tarleton is veteran-friendly,” Vardalis said.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 to be “Armistice Day,” in honor of the veterans who passed during World War I. In 1954 the bill was amended and “Armistice Day” became “Veterans Day” to honor all veterans.