May 28, 2008 | In the News
Coming Home, BMCC News
May 15, 2008
BMCC’s Military Veterans Club looks to help returning service personnel.
From left to right, Aubrey Arcangel, Jennifer Pastor, and Orley Pacheco.
Jennifer Pastor joined the BMCC faculty in 2006, right around the time her son, a U.S. Marine, was beginning his deployment in Iraq.
“I missed him,” she says, “and felt a need to connect with students here who were veterans – both to help them and to connect emotionally with my son.”
With that twin impetus, Pastor, now an assistant professor of psychology in the Social Science Department, laid the groundwork for BMCC’s first military veterans club and became its faculty advisor. Olga Padua, in the Registrar’s office, provided the names and phone numbers of veteran students, enabling Pastor to contact them and gauge their interest in her proposed organization.
“I thought, if my son were to finish his military service and wind up going to school here, it would be good to have a community of veterans he could connect with on campus – a group of people who’d been in Iraq or Afghanistan and understood what he’d experienced,” she says.
Now known formally as the BMCC Military Veterans Club (Milvets), the group has gained new traction this academic year. “There is very little in the way of support services for returning veterans,” says Milvets’ president, Orley Pacheco, who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the Marines and is now in his third semester at BMCC. “Many veterans wind up jobless or even homeless, without marketable skills, adequate education, or any resources to fall back on.” Existing government programs, including the GI Bill, remain woefully outdated and inadequate to meet veterans’ needs, he adds.
“For veterans today, the umbilical cord is cut too short – and too early,” Pacheco says. His goal is to help veteran students make an easier transition to civilian life and explore – and take advantage of – educational options available to them.
A chance to help
Like Pacheco, Aubrey Arcangel also served two tours in Iraq with the Marines – in the 2003 invasion and again in 2005. A fourth-semester finance major, he jumped at the opportunity to help restart Milvets when he was approached by Pacheco, a classmate, last fall.
“I’d already been involved in veterans organizations, as a member of my local American Legion post as well as vice commander of my Veterans of Foreign Wars post,” he says. He shares Pacheco’s view that veterans today are ill-served by government programs.
“The support systems are totally out of date,” he says. “Veterans Affairs benefits in place today were designed in peacetime and are altogether inadequate to meet the needs of veterans returning from war.”
With approximately 20 members, Milvets is hoping to raise awareness of the need for improved support services for veteran students – not just at BMCC, but across the nation. Says Pacheco, “I’m hoping we can begin to make a difference.”
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