Contributed by Carrie Viohl
On the last Monday of May, most of us gather together with folks we love to enjoy picnics, beach parties, and backyard BBQs. As a nation, we love to celebrate Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off to summer! It’s such a fun and festive long weekend that we sometimes forget that Memorial Day is, in fact, a day to remember the American military service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. For the families who have lost a soldier, sailor, airman, guardsman, or marine, Memorial Day is a time to morn and remember their loved one with pride, and to honor the unthinkable price that they paid in service to our country.
With hefty thoughts of the brave selflessness of military personnel and veterans on my mind this time of year, I was impressed to recently learn about Southern Regional Technical College’s “Green Zone” initiative. SRTC supports student veterans in numerous ways, including offering all members of the faculty and staff information about the unique issues faced by veterans. A special group of faculty and staff volunteers - The Green Zone Team - are specifically trained to help student veterans navigate through those challenges if they are ever in need of assistance and support. A Green Zone emblem marks their office doors, an indication that their offices offer a supportive space and additional resources for veterans who might deal with unique frustrations and stresses upon returning to school after their time in service.
Michael Young, Psychology Teacher here at SRTC, is a retired Airman with 22 years of service. His own experience taught him a lot about how difficult it can be to go from serviceman to civilian. “Transitioning from an environment where you are making important and significant decisions – some being life and death decisions – to an environment where not getting a written assignment in Psychology turned in on time impacts your grade – the dichotomy of those two environments can cause great pressure and an intense emotional conflict. I know. I have been there when I transitioned from the military, through to a Master’s degree, and then into the civilian workforce.”
The Green Zone team is made up of volunteers like Mr. Young. “We have a mixture of volunteers with various backgrounds to help the vets,” he said. “Several of us are veterans. Others have family members that served. Still others are just interested in helping vets. That provides a level of comfort for some vets that may enable them to seek our assistance. Sometimes, all they need is someone around that understands part of what they went through in the military. Even if they don’t need to access services through the Green Team, just knowing we are around gives them an encouraging sense of support that is available if they need it.” In total, SRTC has designated 18 full-time staff members in multiple departments at each campus location to be part of a Green Zone Team. Their training included signs of PTSD & TBI, information on veterans transitioning to the classroom, VA benefit information and college and community resources that are available to student veterans.
While the Green Zone Team provides invaluable moral support, SRTC’s Financial Aid Department staff are experts in helping veterans, as well as current military and their dependents navigate the sometimes complicated process of making the most of the higher education benefits that they have earned. Once the Department of Veterans Affairs determines eligibility, SRTC provides enrollment certification that enables the veteran to receive their benefits upon enrollment in the College. SRTC's VA certifying official, Cindy Murray, is a veteran herself, and she enjoys the camaraderie of assisting fellow veterans begin their college journey. "By the time vets leave my office, we are usually swapping stories about our time in service, the places we've lived, and the things we've experienced. Veterans tend to have a unique connection to one another, because we have lived the kind of lives that are unique to the individuals who have chosen to serve this country."
On Monday, May 29th of this year, I hope you spend the day making wonderful memories with the folks you love. But please pause at 3:00 PM for the National Moment of Remembrance, and think of the sacrifices that were made for you to be enjoying all the freedoms that we have in this country. And if you are one of the service men or women who has selflessly protected our nation, I thank you.
For more information on Veterans education benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill, or SRTC’s Veteran’s information page, http://southernregional.edu/veterans-services. Veterans can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to begin corresponding with the school's VA Certifying official right away.
SRTC offers over 148 degree, diploma, and certificate programs that are designed to get you quickly into your desired career, and 27 general education courses that transfer to the University System of Georgia institutions and 19 private colleges and universities in Georgia. SRTC has instructional sites located in Ashburn, Cairo, Camilla, Moultrie, Thomasville, Tifton, and Sylvester for the convenience of our students. The College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. For the most up-to-date information on registration, class dates, and program offerings, log on to www.southernregional.edu or call (888) 205 – 3449.