By Sierra Russell
Even in the earliest issues of the school paper, the Aztec Press reported about war veterans and their involvement in education.
During the years when Vietnam veterans were returning home, articles focused on how to readjust. Many vets voiced frustrations about feeling betrayed and disillusioned.
Stories frequently suggested ways student veterans could prevent or recover from alcohol and drug abuse.
In the mid 1970s, articles encouraged student veterans to join the Pima Community College Veteran’s Organization.
The group was formed partly in response to articles spotlighting student veterans concerned about continuing their education. One aim was to have a unified voice that could be heard in a time when government regulations were frequently changing.
Gil Gonzales, advisor to the association, was quoted in a 1977 issue. “As individuals, veterans have no power; nobody will protect the veterans but the veterans themselves.”
The association began as an avenue to help veterans who felt isolated and silenced. It served as “a stepping stone to bigger organizations,” Gonzales said in the article.
At that time, there were 20-25 active members and approximately 4,000 student veterans enrolled at PCC.
Today, a similar organization called PCC Student Veterans Organization exists. There are currently about 70 active members.
Adviser Tim Kelliher expects those numbers to grow over the next few years. “We take a direct role trying to get students through the paperwork of registration,” he said.
The organization also helps students with issues such as finances, stress, mental health and abuse of alcohol or drugs.
“We try to give students a direct route to outside agencies who can help,” Kelliher said.
Student Veterans Organization meetings are held at the Downtown Campus every Tuesday at noon. Board members meet on the last Friday of each month.
The weekly meetings generally serve as a forum where students can discuss problems, ask questions and talk to each other. The organization also hosts events such as barbecues and fundraisers.
Kelliher got involved in PCC Student Veterans Organization when it formed three years ago, and he continues to play an active role.
“The students really started the organization,” he said. “They needed an adviser to become a club. They knew that I was retired military and that I’m very passionate about the subject. So, we’ve just picked it up and run with it.”
For information about veteran services, visit www.pima.edu/veterans.