Posted at 4 p.m. May 1, 2017

LCCC SVA: New organization to support student veterans

The Student Veterans of America, under the guidance of Kevin Yarbrough, SVA faculty adviser and retired military, is slowly getting all the particulars together to make its presence official on campus. In the meantime, the group is using word of mouth to let people know where they are.

The LCCC SVA is a fairly new group on campus, as a chapter, or branch, of the national Student Veterans of America. Wesley Frain, the SVA chapter president and zoology major, said there was a veterans group on campus about six years ago, but it was more of a mental health support organization.

Yarbrough said the local SVA is open to all active and non-active military, including students who have military affiliation, such as a family member who has served or is currently serving, as well as any student who doesn’t have military affiliation but would like to give their support. The students without military affiliation will be considered honorary members.

The LCCC SVA meets from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Tuesday to discuss the process of integrating the group on campus in a more official capacity. This will help new student veterans coming to campus be aware there is a student organization available specifically for veterans, should they wish to participate. Currently, the group has taken a vacancy in the Crossroads building and formed a lounge area that is open for most of the day for student veterans to gather in between classes for studying or just relaxing.

Frain said there are currently about 10 regular members that come to the weekly meetings on Tuesdays and so far the group is represented by the different military branches, with the exception of the Coast Guard. The members include the LCCC SVA president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, non-officer members, and an honorary member.

While the process will be slow going, Frain said his hope is to build the LCCC SVA chapter into a group where student veterans can not only have a place on campus to go to just relax in between classes or at lunch, but also form a veterans study group and have an advisor to help students with the registration process and financial aid needs as veterans, which differ slightly from a non-veteran student. Because some veterans are going to school via the GI Bill, there are many forms that need to be filled out and turned in as well as military transcripts to be obtained. Frain said both of these things alone can be cumbersome and having someone to help will make the transition into school easier for student veterans.

Ken Bingham, a 64-year-old art major graduating this spring, is one of the many veterans using the GI Bill for his schooling. Bingham said he decided to come back to school because of the opportunity. “I didn’t realize so many opportunities were open to older individuals and I wanted to take advantage of an education I didn’t have once upon a time,” Bingham said.

Bingham joined the military halfway through the 10th grade and served America for two years while stationed in Vietnam. He did not receive his high school diploma, but he later achieved his GED.

Bingham is a full-time jeweler in addition to being a student and owns Teton Jewelers located in downtown Cheyenne on 17th street. Bingham said one of the reasons he chose the art program was to strengthen his ability to draw. Bingham said he would be able to better draw a requested ring, for example, to the customer’s specifications prior to making it.

Bingham said he has no concept of math and said Jim McDonnell, SVA vice president, has helped him understand the subject so he will be able to successfully get through his math class for graduation. “To me graduation is more important than it was once upon a time ago because I didn’t get to graduate. I was across the waters when my graduating class was walking across the stage,” Bingham said.

Bingham’s first time meeting with the SVA was in early April. Prior to that he knew about the group, but just didn’t have time to join or participate. After talking to Jim a few times and finding out that the SVA was more than just student veterans hanging out together and he could get help with his math, Bingham said he decided to make time to be a part of the group and encourages other to do so as well. And now that he knows more about SVA, he said he will be seen more often in the SVA lounge.

“I hope more of those that can take advantage of what SVA has to offer will put it to use so it doesn’t disappear,” Bingham said.

The LCCC SVA is open for membership and welcomes all student veterans and supporters.

An official opening of the SVA Lounge will be at noon on May 5.


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