Not all students have the same past, and not all face the same future, but for many students the clubs and organizations they are involved with reflects what is most important in their lives. The Veterans Club at UMD offers student veterans of all ages a place to start building relationships after returning home from deployment. “That's kind of one of the key things that we like to do is just be an open tool for people coming back or students that are transitioning into college life,” said Adam Muilenburg, the Veterans Club secretary.
The club was first started at UMD a few years back by a group of friends who all returned from deployment around the same time. They started it mostly as a way for old friends to get together and have a social circle.
"We've grown quite a bit over the last four years,” said Kyle Huerd, the club’s president. “We started off with, I want to say like seven to nine members. This year we've broken 100 for our email alias and we have active members anywhere between high 20s, low 30s."
The Veterans Club is a place for veterans of foreign wars, fellow military personnel, and any who support our troops. The club serves as a conduit for interaction between veterans, students, and the Duluth community.
"I'm 28,” Muilenburg said, “and he's 25, we're not the typical college students. So it gave us kind of a group that we were able to get to know. You can mix into college life a lot easier."
Although blending in has its advantages, Muilenburg admits he has been questioned by younger kids asking if he really is a veteran.
“We look like college kids, because we're not that old," Muilenburg said.
The club tries to meet up every week for events, meetings, or just to get together and catch up.
"Honestly it's a wide mix, from 18-year-old freshmen to a 45-year-old with two kids,” Huerd said. “We're trying to get our name out there more and we're thinking about doing a large event in the community. It will be about ‘supporting service men you know.’"
Huerd notes that about 25 to 30 percent of the students involved are non-veterans. A lot of students join for support if parents or other loved ones are deployed.
“I think it was a Marine officer that said ‘American’s not at war, America is at the mall,’” Muilenburg said. “Just a small percentage of people that are in the military, they hear about the wars. But it’s kind of winding down, now that Afghanistan is the only thing going. The elections are taking all of the newsworthy stuff away from any of that. People are tired of hearing about it, I think. Because it doesn’t affect as many people as it used to or you don’t hear about it as much as you used to.”
The club hopes to be more active in the community and strives to have more students involved with their organization. The organization works as a part of the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) located in Solon Campus Center 60, but they have their own office located in 242 Montague Hall. Their door is always open for study or conversation.
"It's more of a community," Muilenburg said.
BY KATIE LOKOWICH email@example.com