MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.-- -- The University of Idaho is leading a movement to provide full-ride scholarships to ambitious service members who have been wounded in the War on Terrorism. The program is aimed at assisting Marines who must overcome unique challenges in pursuit of higher education.
The program’s organizer and president of the university, Dr. Timothy White, visited the Marines of the Wounded Warrior Barracks, Injured Support Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force, June 21 to promote the program and extend an enthusiastic invitation.
According to White, “Operation Education” is designed to stress the individual needs of a service member who has life-changing injuries, which can translate into required assistance via wheelchair seating in classrooms, tutors, medical assistance, transportation, adaptive equipment, family housing and child care. However, any and all special considerations for the learning environment will ultimately be dictated by the student, and will be picked up by the scholarship.
The opportunity is also open to spouses who are now the primary provider for disabled veterans.
The newly-initiated program is quickly picking up speed, and has the potential to become a nationwide campaign, said White.
“Six weeks ago, all we had was the idea and no paperwork to back it up,” said White, who successfully presented the program to a congressional staff. “All in all, it’s been about two months from the time we got the idea to the time we started recruiting.”
Having laid the groundwork for a pilot program, the university is taking another leap toward helping combat veterans realize their ambitions. During the one-day visit, three top representatives from the school were given an overview of the air/ground capabilities of the Marine Corps. The tour included a ride in a Light Armored Vehicle and CH-53D helicopter, as well an overview of flight simulators and trigger time on the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer.
“Right now, we’re taking a big look at who’s interested and how we can best serve their needs,” said Humberto Cerrillo, student body president.
“We want to know who they are and what they’re dreaming about.” agreed White.
According to Cerrillo, meeting prospective recipients of the scholarship gave the team newfound inspiration to educate war veterans.
“We want to do what needs to be done for these guys,” he said. “The University of Idaho is ready to do that. We want to make a home for veterans the way the military has been their home in the past.”
“The next step is to bring these students to the campus and work out any problems there may be,” he said.
“The first students who are accepted under the scholarship will be kind of a test case,” said White. “We’re trying to tweak the interest of other parties, and when we get most of the kinks worked out, we’re going to contact presidents of other universities with a skeleton idea of the program.”
A pilot program like this, to some, is a long overdue answer to the question an honorably discharged, yet injured, service member may have: what happens when I get out of the military?
“A lot of guys who get injured on the battlefield want to stay in the Corps and go back to their units,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Maxwell, a wounded veteran who serves as a role model to other injured Marines and played a large role in the establishment of the wounded warrior barracks.
“If they’re injured so badly they can’t return to active duty, a lot of young guys don’t know what they want to do with their lives,” he said.
The challenges prominent to a young and wounded veteran are being met head-on by the university, which boasts a population of more than 12,000 students and 2,000 staff members. White added the school has a strong military presence among the community.
“We are very excited to have had the opportunity to talk to (wounded Marines). We also thank them for the insight they have provided,” said Cerrillo.
“This experience has been eye-opening,” said White. “Visiting the Marines here and at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) is absolutely amazing. Despite the horrific damage of their war injuries, they have a very ‘can-do’ attitude.”
“One of the things we stress is togetherness through this endeavor,” said Maxwell, noting the program will enable combat-wounded veterans to heal and learn as a team.
Prospective applicants for the scholarship are active and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces, and their spouses, who have a service-connected injury--which severely impacts function of life activities--caused or aggravated by military service after Sept. 11, 2001. The application deadlines for the fall and spring semesters are July 1 and Dec. 1.
For complete application information and forms, prospective recipients can contact John Sawyer at the University of Idaho: (208)885-7069 or (866)671-7041, or online at www.uidaho.edu/givetoidaho.