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Special to The Sun—
ALTUS, Okla. – Western Oklahoma State College announces the newest addition to campus, the Veteran’s Lounge, honoring active and/or reserved service members and veterans. The lounge is located in A-20 and will be open 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In the spring of 2019, several Western employees attended the Oklahoma Military-Connected Student Success Conference at the Oklahoma of University. During the event, they listened to veteran speakers and visited OU’s veteran’s lounge.
“This sparked an interest to have a place on Western’s campus to help veterans feel at ease and a sense of belonging,” said Terri Pearson, vice president of Student Support Services.
Under Pearson’s leadership and a team made up of two veterans on campus, Bruce Wilson, assistant director of WINDS, and Kenny Mendez-Diaz, director of Upward Bound, the brainstorming and planning began.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
“I would hope this lounge will convey how the staff and faculty of Western Oklahoma State College truly feel about the veterans living in our surrounding community. It was my pleasure to assist in its creation,” said Bruce Wilson.
“When our vice president of Student Support Services, Terri Pearson, first mentioned this to me last year, I was eager to start this project,” said Kenny Mendez-Diaz. “It was truly an honor to be a part of the intel-gathering, reconnaissance, phase planning, rehearsal and execution of this mission. Serving our country has been my biggest honor and having been a part of the Veteran’s Lounge project feels like a reward to me. I have no doubt that our veteran students and members of our community, active and retired, will feel gratitude for what Western and its employees have given them as a way of saying ‘Thank You for Your Service.’”
Western has many faculty and staff on campus who have served their country. These include Bruce Wilson – PSI(FMF), 20 years; Kenny Mendez-Diaz – SFC, US Army, 13 years serving four 12-month deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan; Timara Rex-Padgett – CPT Army Nurse Corps, IRR, eight years; Hunter Sawders – MAJ, USAF for 25 years; Jeff Bourgeois – TSgt / E-6, USAF, 20 years; Stewart Gay – TSgt, USAF 19, 13 years active duty and 11 years active reserve; Stacey Machado – SPC-P, US Army, four years; Linda Pinkham – MSgt, USAF, 24 years; and Kheela Smith – Maj., 22 years, US Army.
All six military branches are represented in the lounge showcasing their seals with the newest addition of the United States Space Force. Another beautiful focal point in the lounge is a large painting of an eagle with the American flag. During the 2009 commencement ceremony, speaker, Richard Hight painted the beautiful piece while speaking and donated it to Western.
The lounge is fully equipped with computers, printing capabilities, Wi-Fi, a big screen TV and coffee. The free coffee is courtesy of the WOSC Foundation President’s Partner Program. Reserved Purple Heart parking can also be found on campus.
Beginning in November, Region 11 VA representative Jamie Morgan will have an office located on campus in A-16 on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. He will be available to meet with veterans to help with any benefits and education claims.
Western is pleased to have the opportunity to provide a place for our servicemen and women to enjoy while they are on our campus or simply looking for a place to fellowship.
For more information regarding military opportunities at Western, contact the Student Support Services office at 580-477-7708.
Western Oklahoma State College is the oldest original municipal two-year college still in existence in the state of Oklahoma. Its mission is to provide high quality education, support student success and empower individuals to become productive members of local, regional and global communities. For more information, visit wosc.edu.