MU welcomes new and returning veterans

Friday, August 29, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:20 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 29, 2014
A veterans support group hosts MU veterans at the A.L. Gustin Golf Course on Thursday. Despite the hot weather, dozens of veterans and supporters came out to enjoy good company and food.

COLUMBIA — New and returning veterans wore T-shirts and jeans rather than military uniforms Thursday at the Mizzou Veterans Welcome BBQ.

Around 330 veterans are enrolled at MU this fall. To welcome them to the campus, the MU Veterans Center, MU Student Veterans Association and the Department of Student Life organized a barbecue at the A.L. Gustin Golf Course.

The event has been organized at the beginning of each fall semester since 2009, and more than 50 veterans arrived this year before the cooking began

MU Student Veterans Association president Ryan Gill first joined the welcome party when he came to MU in 2012.

Gill was deployed to Iraq in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, he went to Haiti after the earthquake, where he worked as a military policeman. From 2011 to 2012, he was in service in Qatar. 

"When you are in the military, it is a very structured environment and everything is taken care of for you," Gill said."When you transfer to a university, your itinerary is your university classes."

Mark Olson, a 28-year-old senior majoring in natural resource recreation management, joined the military in 2005. He used to be an infantryman in the Army and was sent to Iraq for two and a half years.

Although he has been out of service since 2011, Olson said he still keeps in touch with his friends in the military. He finds friendship on campus different from that in military.

"If somebody messes their job (in the army), somebody could die," Olson said. "But when your friends lie to you, no one is going to die."

Although he has made many friends on campus, he said, his real challenge is suffering from traumatic brain injury.

He has dealt with the symptoms five times. Olson said his memory is getting worse, and he is easily distracted in the classroom.

But at the same time, Olson said his experience in the army makes him a task-oriented person, which has helped him with his schoolwork.

"It is very important for me and other veterans on campus to be able to identify with one another and have a place where they can go and relate to other people who have similar experience," Gill said.

Supervising editor is Bailey Otto.

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