Thank you for your service: Meet a few of WCC’s nearly 600 student veterans

Happy Veterans Day. American flags with the text thank you veterans against a blackboard background. November 11.

Washtenaw Community College would like to introduce you to a few of the nearly 600 veterans who enroll at the college annually. We thank each of them for their service.

The following profiles were gathered by Janine Militello, the Veteran Student Advisor at the college’s Wadhams Veterans Center. The center serves all former and current active-duty military personnel, spouses and dependents of veterans, and students in the National Guard or Reserves. It strive to integrate veterans into the college community by helping with their transition and offering various assistance.

The center is named for Tim and Laurie Wadham for their generous support of the college and, in particular, its services for students who have served in the Armed Forces.

Thomas Proffitt, USMC

What are your plans after WCC?

PROFFITT: Transfer to the University of Michigan to finish my Anthropological Archeology degree.

Why did you choose to serve our country?

PROFFITT: Honestly, I was bored and wanted out of my hometown at the time. I had a close friend in need and he did not want to ship out alone, so I told him I would go.

What part of your service impacted you the most?

PROFFITT: All of it.

What’s something non-veterans might not know, but they should?

PROFFITT: Do not ask if the veteran killed anyone. If an individual did, they probably do not want to think about it.

What does Veterans Day mean to you?

PROFFITT: I do not need any recognition, but I appreciate being thought of, as I am sure anyone would.

Jasmine Jones, US Army

What are your plans after WCC?

JONES: After WCC, I’d like to get a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I plan to work in the mental health field.

Why did you choose to serve our country?

JONES: I joined the Army when I was 19 because of the amazing benefits and life experiences the military provided.

What part of your service impacted you the most?

JONES: Being able to travel to places most people would never be able to go and befriending people from all over the world that I never would have met if I stayed in Michigan my whole life. While deployed to Iraq, I met a Belgium Special Forces Soldier named Jean Pierre. He didn’t speak very much English, but spoke to me because I looked zoned out at the time and I think he wanted to make sure I was OK. We became friends after that and it must have been odd seeing us together because he was this huge Belgium guy and I’m 4-foot-11.

What’s something non-veterans might not know, but they should?

JONES: Non-veterans should know that veterans are just regular people experiencing the same issues as everyone else. Military training makes you more disciplined and skilled, but it does not turn you into a robot.

What does Veterans Day mean to you?

JONES: To me, Veterans Day is a day we can recognize what the veterans in our lives, and around the world, have sacrificed for our country. Talk to your grandparents about what they experienced in the WWII era. Talk to your parents about their experiences in the Vietnam era. Talk to your relatives and friends currently serving about their experiences overseas. You’ll see that they are just people doing the best that they can under tremendous stress and hopefully you’ll walk away understanding that person in your life a little better.

John Cavender, USMC

What are your plans after WCC?

CAVENDER: My plans after WCC are to transfer to California State University-Fullerton to complete a degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. I am working toward pursuing a job within athletics and performance enhancement.

Why did you choose to serve our country?

CAVENDER: I ultimately decided to serve in the Marine Corps because I felt like I needed more growth and structure in my life and I saw the opportunity to accomplish that in the Marines.

What part of your service impacted you the most?

CAVENDER: There are so many things about serving in the Marines that positively impacted me, made me who I am today and how I ended up here, pursing a degree at WCC. First, I was able to learn a new perspective on life – that nothing is eever completely in your control and you have to have patience. Also, I learned that putting myself in situations that I’m not comfortable with, such as public speaking, over and over again really helped me grow. My confidence as a person, as well. Lastly, I realized that having good people around you that are as passionate about life as you should be, that is the most important things of all.

What’s something non-veterans might not know, but they should?

CAVENDER: I don’t know it’s something most people don’t know, but for those of you who have not had the chance to get out of Michigan – or have never been out of the region or the country – those people should invest the time and money to explore different cultures and environments around the world.

What does Veterans Day mean to you?

CAVENDER: It’s a day that helps all of us that have known each other, or people that may have never met but have served, the opportunity and excuse to socialize and talk to each other and keep in touch. Also, it is a day on which I’ve recently challenged myself to read up or watch an educational video to educate me on at least one man or women that has served before me.

Laura Heaney Belair, US Navy

What are your plans after WCC?

BELAIR: I plan on becoming a nurse and traveling with my husband.

Why did you choose to serve our country?

BELAIR: I chose to serve because I wanted the opportunity to give back to my country and because I wanted the chance to see the world.

What part of your service impacted you the most?

BELAIR: While deployed, my ship provided humanitarian aid to flood victims in Sri Lanka. We spent about two weeks helping remove flood debris and correcting flood damage. While I was there, the Sri Lankan people were incredibly kind and always smiling despite the challenges they faced.

Matthew Allen, USMC

What are your plans after WCC?

ALLEN: My goal after WCC is to pursue a welding career with an oil refinery or an oil rig position with an extended monthly stay option.

Why did you choose to serve our country?

ALLEN: Honestly, I was a little lost after my first stint in college. I attended Universal Technical Institute for about eight months, pursuing an Automotive Services and Engineering certification. Unfortunately, my financial aid wouldn’t cover it and I was forced to end my college days there. I went back home and was fumbling around a bit. I ran into a recruiter who talked a good game. However, I also consulted my older brother, who had served. He told me about the pros and cons of serving, so I went for it. Also, it is for that little girl in the picture. She is my niece and it is scary how alike we are and how much she looks up to me. I want to set a good example for her.

What part of your service impacted you the most?

ALLEN: The thing that impacted me the most about the Marine Corps is the degree of family that we form. The level of camaraderie in the Corps is astounding. Blood couldn’t make us any closer than we are. It truly gives you a sense of belonging that is rare and hard to find anywhere else.

What’s something non-veterans might not know, but they should?

ALLEN: What I believe non-veterans should know is that, yes, we have been through some traumatic experiences and it changes our perspectives on life. It does alter our behavior and leaves us with scars that aren’t always visible. However, it doesn’t mean we should be treated any differently than anyone else. Respect what we have been through, but treat us with an open mind.

What does Veterans Day mean to you?

ALLEN: Veterans Day, to most, is a day to honor those who have served. It is a time to reflect on what the Armed Services has contributed as well as sacrificed for our country. To me, it is also a time to think about the brothers and sisters I’ve served with and those who haven’t returned.

Some replies edited slightly for length and clarity. 

 

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