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Program to boost military vets enrolled at WVU

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Keeping up with classes is a tall order for most college students. Especially the ones who are used to taking orders and saying, “Yes, sir,” in response.

That’s why there was a table bulging with supplies Thursday afternoon at the Operation Welcome Home center at Mylan Park.

Legal pads, ink pens, day planners — and even the old student staple, Ramen noodles — were assembled in rows, where they will soon be put into backpacks for WVU students who are military veterans or serving on active duty. The effort is called “Camo to Caps.”

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As in, camouflage and graduation caps.

The idea is to let that above segment of the student population know their brothers and sisters in arms (and the G.I. Bill) are there with them on their march to a degree. Jamie Summerlin, a retired Marine who ran across the U.S. this summer to raise money and awareness for what soldiers face at war and home, helped come up with the idea.

A soldier who served his country deserves a college education, he said. If noodles and notepads can help, he said, why not?

Several businesses and civic groups have already donated supplies for the distribution effort that begins in January. So have clubs and ROTC detachments across WVU. That’s an army of caring, Summerlin said, and he likes that image.

“You take a local community that wraps its arms around a veteran who has already received the best training in the world,” he said, “and you couple him or her with a college degree. That veteran then goes out and contributes to society and gives back.”

John Wishmyer, 27, is a WVU junior majoring in athletic coaching education. Before that, he was in the Army and did tours overseas in the war on terror.

He recently missed several days of classes because his National Guard unit declared war on Sandy. He was deployed to help clean up after the superstorm that ravaged the northeast two weeks ago.

“It’s what you do,” he said.

And sometimes, said Brett Simpson, a retired U.S. Army major who manages the Operation Welcome Home facility, everyone else does the right thing in return.

When the packs of supplies are ready to give away in January, he said, WVU’s military students will be able to pick them up only at the center, in Mylan Park.

That’s on purpose, he said.

That’s so he can introduce himself to them, and they can be introduced to the center that boasts free Wi-Fi, study rooms and other academic amenities.

“We just want them to know we’re here for them,” he said.
 

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