This morning as I was walking through the student center, I stopped at a booth with students selling T-shirts and baked goods. After I purchased a shirt, I hung around and talked to a few members of the Harding Veterans’ Association, a group that began last fall and became an official University organization last semester. The group has about 20 members with one major thing in common — they are all members of a branch in the United States military.
“I had been living in one world, the Marine Corps world, for six years,” said Cpl. Paden Timms, a junior psychology major. “Coming back to Harding, it was like living from one end of the spectrum to the other.”
His mother the residence life coordinator of a girls’ dorm, Timms grew up in Searcy and always lived on or near campus. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after he graduated high school early and spent six years there. Once he returned to Searcy, he spent time doing electrical work before coming to school at Harding. Now, he helps coordinate the Veterans’ Association’s activities, including a postcard drive last spring and a fundraiser for the organization this week.
“What I’ve seen from a lot of these guys is that they didn’t know what to expect,” Timms said. “It’s a little bit of a culture shock coming back into an environment like this. And so the primary goal of this group is to help those guys transition from coming from such a completely crazy world to something like this.”
Zach Martin is a sophomore electrical engineering major, and he’s also a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and a member of the Harding Veterans’ Association.
“I’ve been around the world,” Sgt. Martin said. “I’ve been to war, and it’s good to have some other guys that I can talk to. When you first get to school, there’s definitely a lot of questions you have, and with this veterans group, you have some guys that have already been through that. They kind of help you get taken care of. It’s a good thing.”
The organization is sponsored by Dr. Shawn Fisher, assistant professor of history, with involvement from a number other faculty and staff. The association allows student veterans to be a part of a group of like-minded people and also facilitates service opportunities for campus as a whole, such as the postcard drive last spring where cards were sent to servicemen and women and a coat drive they hope to organize soon.
As our conversation was coming to a close, Timms and Martin were sharing stories about funny letters they had received from students in elementary schools. When they began talking about military titles and the logistics of achieving them, I was thankful they had each other and an entire group of people who understand what those words mean, because I didn’t have a clue. Though I thanked them for their service as I was walking away, I don’t feel like my words accurately reflect just how thankful I really am for them and so many others like them. I think Dr. Fisher said it best as he ended chapel this morning.
“Today, in a very somber way, we celebrate our protectors — our guardsmen on the wall. We salute those who have given all they have to make it so that we can have a life in peace.”
Hannah Beall Owens, director of news services