COLUMBIA — Hand over hand, Army ROTC Cadet Jonathan Dudley pulled a rope to raise the American flag, with the navy-and-white flag of Columbia College underneath it. The flag-raising, with assistance from Air Force ROTC Cadet D. Neal Ethington and Navy ROTC Midshipman Kevin Mills, was part of the college's second Military Recognition Day, intended to honor current and veteran members of the military.
This particular American flag is symbolic because it was flown at the Lemoore Naval Air Station in California, where Columbia College has had a campus since 2001; the flag will be flown through Memorial Day on Monday. A group of pilots from Lemoore is in Columbia this weekend to participate in the 2009 Salute to Veterans Memorial Day Air Show.
During the flag-raising ceremony on Columbia College's Bass Commons — the lawn in front of St. Clair Hall at Tenth and Rogers streets — Nollie Moore, a music instructor at the college and director of its Jane Froman Singers, sang "God Bless America." After remarks by Tery Donelson, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management who is retired from the Air Force, and college President Gerald Brouder, the gathering headed to Missouri Hall at 1011 Rogers St. for the formal opening of the Veterans Service Center.
The center has been open unofficially since mid-March. Mark Schlemper, a senior at Columbia College majoring in computer science, told the group that before attending the college, he served for eight years in the Navy and was honorably discharged in 2006. He said the center will help veterans by centralizing services and minimizing the number of hoops they must jump through.
At the new center, veterans will be able to certify their VA benefits, receive advice from career services and find further assistance. The center will also have a disability services coordinator to help veterans with disabilities.
Keila Ferree, the college's Veterans Administration certifying official, said the idea for the Veterans Service Center was created when the Veterans Service Committee was formed in November 2008. The guiding idea of the center and the committee is to make life easier for veterans, Ferree said. Currently, the center is operated through Student Records, but Ferree said that might change.
Columbia College has 35 campuses, 18 of which are located on military installations, and has a strong online presence. More than 30 percent of students were or are members of the military or military dependents, Ferree said. Columbia College was listed as one of the top 20 military-friendly colleges in the nation by Military Advanced Education, a magazine that covers education issues for members of the military.