Student veteran helps service members transition to college environment
Before Kyle Smith attended Mizzou, he served two tours in Afghanistan as a member of the Air Force. After hearing stories from his older brother about his time in the Army, Smith left Raritan Valley Community College near his hometown of Milford, New Jersey, and jumped at the opportunity to travel while serving his country.
“As part of the security forces team, we helped local Afghan nationals and Afghan police create a structure so that they could patrol and operate their own military bases in defense against the Taliban and other extremist groups,” Smith said.
After serving in Afghanistan, Smith returned to the U.S. and resumed his studies at Pike’s Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His older brother, who now works at the University of Missouri’s Bradford Research Center, suggested that he visit Mizzou. Once again, Smith followed in his brother’s footsteps and came to Columbia in the spring of 2016 to study parks, recreation and sport. While enrolling in classes, Smith was told by Robert Ross, director of the Missouri Veterans Center, that he was automatically a member of the Mizzou Student Veterans Association (MSVA). Two years later, Smith was elected president.
“First and foremost, our mission is to support veterans who are students here at Mizzou,” Smith said. “I want to focus on outreach and make sure that student veterans have the resources they need so that their college career is as successful and beneficial as possible.”
One of the major projects Smith and the MSVA have been working on is the renovation and expansion of the Veterans Center located in the lower level of Memorial Union. Currently, with only room for about six to nine student veterans, their future space will be able to accommodate more than 25 student veterans and have administrative offices for executive committee meetings. The expanded center will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony early next year and is expected to open up for the spring semester of 2019.
“Memorial Union was built after World War I to honor the students who left Mizzou to serve their country and never came back,” Smith said. In addition to the casualties listed on the walls of Memorial Union’s archway, there are memorials inside the north entrance honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Mizzou is hosting several events during the week leading up to Veterans Day to honor student veterans at Mizzou. The week ends with Saturday’s football game against Vanderbilt, which will be the Military Appreciation Game.
“Veterans Day is a day to recognize all of those that have served our country,” Smith said. “No matter who you are or what you did, as veterans we all wore that uniform so the camaraderie is really special.”