By Simon Thomas
As Veteran’s Day approached, Whatcom set up a memorial displayed at the Heiner Center to honor those who served in our country’s Armed Forces.
The display, however, did not provide a sense of pride in our country. It did not remind onlookers of the strength and character those who serve our country have. Instead, the display case contained 22 pairs of army boots, side by side.
The vacant boots represent the daily suicide rate for military veterans. According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, “the number of veteran deaths by suicide averages 22 per day.”
As disheartening as this statistic may be, Whatcom’s Veteran’s Center provides evidence that most veterans have a different outlook after they serve. The Veteran’s Center provides opportunity and support for those seeking education when returning to civilian life.
Jarid Corbitt, the assistant director of Veteran Services, has been working with veterans at Whatcom for seven years. He said the Veteran’s Center supports 250 veterans annually. Corbitt helps veterans register for classes, apply for scholarships, and handle busy schedules.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs provide services which help veterans extend their education after their service. Corbitt helps out veterans attending Whatcom apply for any benefits they might be eligible for because of their veteran status.
Matthew Nolan, is a Whatcom student and Marine veteran. After leaving the Marines Nolan came to Whatcom to continue his education.
Nolan, 24, saw his friend and fellow veteran student, succeeding at Cornell University after coming to Whatcom and aspired to reach for similar heights.
Nolan, nominated himself for a scholarship to Dartmouth College, provided by the Posse Veterans Program that guarantees full tuition for every veteran student selected.
The Posse Foundation selects 10 students, or a posse, and guide them as they attend and graduate selective universities. The Posse Foundation has been operating for 27 years, but began the initiative to help veterans in 2012.
President Barack Obama once said “the students that are selected form a ‘posse’ and are provided with extra support, and end up graduating from selective colleges with a very high success rate,” in an interview with “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”
According to the Posse Foundation, 2 million U.S. veterans are currently eligible for education benefits.
“The whole point of the Posse Foundation is that it is a non-traditional application for students and individuals who don’t have access to a college like Dartmouth,” Nolan said.
After an interview at Fort Lewis, the largest military base in Washington, and a Skype interview Nolan will meet the other finalists in New York to discuss the scholarship. Nolan will know by Dec. 16 if he will receive the scholarship.
“Veterans are not just here to do what we can to succeed, but also to lead and inspire,” Nolan said.