January 27, 2015

UW-Stevens Point offers class to help veterans adjust to college life

(Photo: UW-Stevens Point)

(Photo: UW-Stevens Point)

That first semester in college is a different experience for many veterans, and a new course being offered at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point this year hopes to address some of the back-to-school issue they are facing.

David Chrisinger is a UW-Stevens Point graduate that developed a veterans-only class called “Back From The Front.” He says the inspiration for the course came from a friend from Rhinelander who struggled to return to civilian life after serving in the military. “The kinds of issues that a 17 or 18-year-old is going to have to grapple with when they start college are very different than what a student veteran will grapple with, so I put together this class to help the students acclimate to the university, to connect with each other, and to learn how to be successful here.”

Chrisinger says the experiences freshmen out of high school have are vastly different from freshmen out of the military, and they discuss how to apply what they’ve learned in uniform to the new task of completing an education. “One thing that we work on in our classes is to show that they can use their experience to enlighten the class and to add a very valuable voice to certain discussions, and to use their experiences to make their experiences in college that much better.”

Much of the class is focused on the history of war, writing and running to help transition from military life to college life. “This first semester, what we really wanted to do was to give the students a place where they could connect with each other, and we could build an environment where the students felt comfortable and safe enough to talk about their experiences and to deal with the sorts of issues and challenges that many of them face coming back to the university.”

All college students go through a “first-year seminar” aimed at helping students think critically, adapt to the academic community and campus life, and take responsibility for their education, career choices and personal development. Chrisinger says the veterans entering college that make the transition a little difficult, but they also have a huge head start in some important areas. “Something I had not thought about was how advanced these students would be in certain areas. You know, they have incredible critical thinking skills. They do know how to get their work done. They do know the discipline. They pay attention. They show up to class early, you know, all of those things that a professor dreams about, they’re doing that stuff.”

UW Stevens Point is considered a “military friendly” campus, and has about 300 veterans enrolled in a wide variety of degree programs.


Remembering Pearl Harbor Day



When the Japanese warplanes bombed the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor 73 years ago, American soldiers were caught off guard. President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy.”

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos says fewer and fewer World War Two-era veterans are still with us today. “I think we should continue to honor the legacy of not only the WWII generation, but also to show the resilience of our nation.”

Scocos, who’s dad served in WWII, compares the attacks in 1941 to the tragedy of 9/11 in 2001 — 60 years later. He says after both attacks Americans had the resilience to pick themselves back up, defend the country, and continue to move forward.

More than 330,000 Wisconsinites served in WWII; over 8,000 died in that war and more than 13,000 were wounded.

Veterans benefits survey due Monday

Veterans Secretary John Scocos

Veterans Secretary John Scocos

Monday is the last day for military veterans and their families to fill out an online survey to provide feedback about state and federal benefits.

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos says information from the questionnaire will help the state direct programs, benefits, and services to those who need them. He says the federal VA did a similar survey two years ago.

“The federal government’s recent survey showed that 50 percent of our veterans did not know where to go or what they are offered for benefits,” Scocos says, “And we think that’s a tragedy. A veterans serves, they should be able to use their benefits and we should be able to assist them in any way possible.”

The department reaches out to veterans through employment fairs and other methods, and Scocos says this survey is yet another way to get valuable feedback from those who are directly impacted. The agency head says it’s important veterans know about benefits related to education, nursing facilities, health care, and other areas.

“Wisconsin offers a tremendous variety of benefits for our veterans and we’re here to serve our veterans and their family members from all the different eras and all the different issues they face.”

Scocos says the department wants to improve its quality of service by supporting veterans and their families in the most current and effective way possible.

The department says survey responses are confidential.

That survey, which only takes a few minutes to complete, can be found at

Governor Walker honors veterans at Capitol ceremony

Governor Walker talks to Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Governor Walker talks to Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

As Governor Scott Walker speaks at the Veterans Day ceremony in the Capitol rotunda, he talks about the freedom American citizens enjoy. “Endowed by our Creator,” he explains, “Defined by our constitution, and defended every day by the men and women (in the armed forces).”

The theme of this year’s ceremony is “Never Forgotten: Honoring Wisconsin’s Veterans.”

Walker points out that many men and women from the Wisconsin National Guard and well as the Army Reserve are currently deployed overseas, many in harm’s way. “Today, as we should every day, we say ‘thank you’ to those in uniform who are serving — even as we speak — and we say ‘thank you’ to all the veterans here and those that you represent across the state and across this country who have honorably served our country.”

AUDIO: Governor Walker addresses the crowd in the Capitol rotunda :31

The governor is joined by Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos and former prisoner of war Colonel Don Heiliger. The Pledge of Allegiance is delivered by Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel, and the national anthem is sung by state representative Warren Petryk (R-Eleva). (Video below)

Walker tells the crowd that although the words of the courageous military veterans might have been repeated over the years, there is an entirely new generation who hasn’t heard them. “And so it’s important at events like this, but also when we go back to our homes, we go back to our communities, we go back to our coworkers, we need to make sure that the best way to honor those men and women who served our country is making sure we honor their stories and memories for generations to come.”

Walker says one’s political affiliation doesn’t matter, everyone wants our veterans to return home safely.

Governor Walker presented a Certificate of Commendation to Colonel Don Heiliger, Vietnam POW; and also recognized Ray Sherman, WWII POW; and Dale King, Korea POW. Walker also presented the Veteran Woman of the Year award to Jennifer Sluga, and a Certificate of Appreciation to John and Mark Finnegan, founders of VetsRoll, which provides ground transportation to veterans to visit their war memorials and other sites in Washington, DC. at no charge to them.

Veterans Day is Tuesday, November 11.

Veterans agency urges POW-MIA remembrance

POW-MIA flag atop the state Capitol building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

POW-MIA flag atop the state Capitol building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

On the third Friday in September, Americans remember the commitment and sacrifices made by members of the U.S. military who were taken as prisoners of war or went missing during combat operations.

“America has made a commitment to those in uniform that no one would be left behind,” says Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos. The Iraq War veteran reminds us there are more than 83,000 Americans still listed as MIA, dating back to World War II. His own father was held prisoner of war after having been shot down over Nazi Germany during the second World War.

POW-MIA proclamation (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

POW-MIA proclamation (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Scocos stresses the importance of remembering those who haven’t returned home. “I think it’s important that we show our service members and their families that we will continually make the resolve to find the remains. As a nation, we honor our members of the armed forces and that their dedication and duty — whether in peace time or war time — will not be forgotten by the public.”

Scocos points out, for many former POWs, the pain of their captivity never entirely ends, even years after their return home.

Many veterans groups across the state are holding silent marches. Scocos will participate in an event in Lake Geneva.