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Vets lounge serves many needs

Veterans transitioning from military service to civilian life can find the process challenging and attending college just adds to that pressure.

More than 1,000 veterans are enrolled at OTC and a new Veterans Lounge has opened on the OTC Springfield Campus, which has been called a “safe haven” for veterans.

“The lounge gives veterans a place where they can come and be around a group of individuals they’re used to being around,” said Ben Bridges, the work-study student who helps oversee the room. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and an OTC student.

“One of the big concerns was once I saw the retention average for vets, I saw it was hard to retain a vet and acclimate them back in to college life. This lounge should help. We want to let them know they have a place, a safe haven.”

The facility is located Room 101 in the Norman K. Myers Technical Center and offers veterans a place to study, relax and talk with other veterans about school or personal issues.

“It’s a comfortable place for veterans who want to be around liked-minded individuals,” said Jeremy Ware, a veteran and student who was using the center recently. “Veterans might not feel comfortable talking to someone who can’t relate. It’s a place to decompress. We need to talk to other people who have been in similar situations.”

Bridges said the word is getting out that the center is open for its first full semester and he thinks there are even more veterans on campus than are reported.

“A lot of veterans aren’t hooked into social media. The number of veterans reported in school reflects those who have checked the box on their form. I’m sure there are a lot more,” he said.

Veterans can get help with financial issues, school problems and information on other services available to them, Bridges said.

“I hope it can grow and the lounge can be integrated into an actual Veterans Services Department where there would be a one-stop shop for veterans in regards to admissions, advising, counseling and financial aid, including their VA Benefits,” said Dennis Peters, OTC veteran services representative.

Steve Koehler is coordinator of media relations at Ozarks Technical Community College.

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