Tigers aim to create a friendly atmosphere for students who have served in the military. This year the university established a 10 percent tuition award for military personnel, veterans and their dependents, and the School of Law opened a clinic through which Mizzou law students help veterans and families secure disability benefits. Established in 2010, the MU Veterans Center currently serves 837 students who use Veterans Administration benefits, including veterans, active-duty service members, National Guard members, reservists and veterans' family members.

This week we celebrate MU Veterans Week with a series of events, including the Nov. 11 Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony and a Nov. 12 talk by Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts. Commemorating Veterans Day, four Mizzou students share what the military means to them.

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Sean McLafferty

Branch of service: Army
Years of service: 4 (active), 6 (reserves)
Military rank: Sergeant
Places of deployment: New Orleans (Katrina), Samarra Iraq
Military Occupational Specialty: Infantry

Why did you join the military?

I joined to serve my country following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

What do we need to know about serving in the military?

While going through the toughest experiences of my life, it was the people and sense of camaraderie that always resonated with me. It was the single strongest sense of belonging that I have ever experienced in my life.

What does being a veteran mean to you?

Being a veteran means hearing a voice from within and answering a call to serve. Whether it be in uniform or after the transition, ultimately, being a veteran is interconnected with a desire to serve others.

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Clayton Boessen

Branch of service: Active Duty Army
Years of service: 5 (2006-11)
Military rank: Specialist
Places of deployment: Baghdad, Iraq and Kandahar, Afghanistan
Military Occupational Specialty: Infantry

Why did you join the military?

For God, family and country. I was motivated by what I would call a spiritual calling. Other factors were patriotism, a longing for adventure and the desire to be a part of something bigger than myself.

What do we need to know about serving in the military?

I would just ask you to not take your American freedoms for granted. Our society has benefited from generations of men who have given their lives to ensure that we do not live under the tyranny of fascism, communism or Islamic extremism.

What does being a veteran mean to you?

Living the the words of President John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

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Steven Gibson

Branch of service: Active Duty Army
Years of service: 4
Military rank: Specialist
Places of deployment: Afghanistan
Military Occupational Specialty: Medic

Why did you join the military?

I joined to be a part of the effort to preserve our nation's freedom.

What do we need to know about serving in the military?

Serving in the military has been the best decision I have made. There is no better cause to fight for. The soldiers I've fought alongside are my best of friends, and the opportunities for self-improvement are always there and encouraged to be pursued.

What does being a veteran mean to you?

Being a veteran means you have made the decision to put your life on the line to ensure America remains free. It is the ultimate act of selfless service. From the time you went in and until the time you got out, you knew you could've lost everything you've ever had for the people you love, the people you hate, and the people you don't know. That's what being a veteran means to me.

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Abigail Eckerle

Branch of service: Navy
Years of service: 4
Military rank: Seaman
Places of deployment: No deployments
Military Occupational Specialty: IT

Why did you join the military?

I joined the Navy because after high school I was stuck in a cycle of working just to pay bills. I wanted to go to college, but I knew I would not be able to afford it. I decided to join the military to earn educational benefits and serve my country. I chose the Navy as a way of following in my father's footsteps.

What do we need to know about serving in the military?

It's a wonderful experience to have and it will impact the rest of your life.

What does being a veteran mean to you?

Being a veteran means that I took an oath to fight for my country. I was never deployed, but if my country does ever need me to fight for her, I'm ready and willing. I will always respect the flag and everything it stands for. I know that freedom is not free, and I respect all of those who have fought for it.