UNO welcomes veterans home with open arms

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Veterans find support at MaV USO

Julie Katt completed basic training just two days after hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center.

She was deployed with the first wave of soldiers into Baghdad. She slept under the stars for nearly a week until supplies arrived, including the tents she and the others in her unit slept in during their 10-month deployment.

After she returned home, the Army veteran found the transition back to civilian life to be “very hard.”

She no longer had the same day-to-day stories to share with friends. Going back to work, she felt she had a very different mindset than her co-workers because of her training in the Army.

Even remembering how to do her hair and finding clothes to fit her newly buff body were struggles.

“I left a little petite girl and came out of basic training and I couldn’t pull my pants over my thighs, I was so muscular,” she said, laughing. “It was horrible. But I was a lot stronger.”

Her toughest transition, though, was figuring out the best place to receive her education. She bounced across the nation attending various colleges. Finding a university that would work with her schedule and accept her credits, she said, was a nightmare.

Eventually she found a community of veterans at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

“Our department here in Veterans’ Services is a wonderful place to transition from military to school life,” Julie says. “There is a lot of knowledge and a lot of veterans who understand the transition, how it is to go from working to school, after that long break.”

Julie, a 30-year-old single mom, takes pride in the fact that UNO is ranked among the top schools in the nation for offering services and resources to veterans and their families. (UNO was recognized by G.I. Jobs magazine as one of its top Military Friendly schools for 2013. For the fourth year in a row, the magazine ranked UNO in the top 15 percent of universities and trade schools in the nation in the support of military and veteran students and their families.)

She has found even more support at UNO since April, when its new Military and Veteran University Services Office (MaV USO) opened. The office is located on the first floor of the Eppley Administration Building. It includes a Veteran Student Lounge, with comfortable chairs and tables, computers and plenty of free coffee. It makes her feel right at home. When describing MaV USO, she uses phrases like “open door,” “open arms,” and “support.”

“It’s just a nice place that you can get away,” Julie says. “You’re with veterans and helping veterans. It’s really one of those places where you feel another community so you’re not completely on your own.”

The staff members of MaV USO are committed to providing high quality, comprehensive student support services and student programming that ensure successful recruitment, transition, academic progress and graduation of veterans at UNO.

Julie will graduate in May with degrees in secondary education and mathematics. She tutors students in the Veteran Student Lounge. She hosts study groups at MaV USO with other veteran students from her classes and uses the lounge to work on homework.

The official grand opening for MaV USO was this past Friday, Nov. 2 – because November is the month of Veterans Day.

Until becoming involved with MaV USO, Julie never did anything to celebrate the day. Now she goes to dinner with the rest of the office staff.

Julie also takes time to send texts and Facebook messages of thanks and warm wishes. She spends the day thinking about those who died.

“It’s a good day to reminisce and hold that solitude of what it means to be together and serve.”

Student support is a top priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you’d like to help UNO student veterans like Julie achieve their college dreams, please consider giving online to the UNO MaV USO Military and Veterans Fund for Excellence. Or contact the foundation’s Nicole Massara at 800-432-3216.

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