The UNG Oconee Campus Veterans Association met on Sept. 2 to elect officials and look for ways to invest in the community and assist local veterans this upcoming semester.
The OCVA is relatively new to UNG Oconee, according to Lance Bardsley, a political science professor and the organization’s faculty advisor.
“It was formed last spring,” Bardsley said. “It has just gotten off the ground.”
The organization was founded last April by Benjamin Young, a student who is now at UNG Dahlonega. The OCVA is currently looking for new members and ways to connect with veterans in the community, according to Bardsley.
“What we are trying to do,” Bardsley said, “is provide one point of reference to get them the right information where they can go and find any kind of assistance for whatever they may need.”
Jennifer Dickerson, interim president of the OCVA, wants to provide veterans with an engaging community.
“That’s the whole focus of the group, is bringing all the veterans together, so they do have someone to connect with that they can relate with,” Dickerson said.
The OCVA is centered on educating veterans in what resources their service has entitled them to.
“It’s not about selling it,” Bardsley said. “It’s about providing a point of reference for veterans as far as what kind of programs they are entitled to and thus pushing them in the right direction.”
The organization is also trying to partner with other local veterans’ associations.
“The hope is to get the organization involved in the community, and to link up with other veterans’ organizations in Oconee and Athens-Clarke County areas,” Bardsley said.
The OCVA hopes to not only support veterans but also their families.
“For example, military members of the National Guard if deployed…their families may need assistance, because they may not have the support group that you could find on a military base, like you would find on Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga,” Bardsley said.
Dickerson believes that becoming accustomed back to civilian life can be difficult for veterans.
“When you go from military life to civilian life, it’s a big shock, it’s a completely different world,” Dickerson said.
The OCVA believes that UNG Oconee could do more for its veterans in the future.
“You have people for education, but say somebody has a health issue. You have to direct them outside to go to the Athens clinic here from the Veterans Association,” Bardsley said.
It is important to the OCVA that students are aware that the organization’s membership is not exclusive to just veterans.
“We are trying to let students know that you do not have to be a veteran,” Dickerson said. “You can be a dependent, a spouse, or a die-hard military supporter.”
“No, in fact we just had a person join that isn’t a veteran,” he said. “The focus is on family members and others that would like to help support veterans, so it’s not exclusive in its membership.”
Funding was another major topic of discussion at the meeting on Sept. 2. According to Bardsley, the OCVA is currently using temporary funding but has been recognized as a campus organization and will be applying for funding from the Student Government Association in January.
The OCVA meets on the fourth Thursday of each month in room 302 at noon. Their next meeting is on Sept. 23. If you have any questions, you can find Lance Bardsley’s information in the directory on UNG’s website.