RAYMOND – Giving back to those who have served their country in many ways is the mission of the Hinds Community College Office of Veterans Services.
For veterans such as David Mackey, 35, of Vicksburg, the assistance has made a journey back from personal trials and tribulations much smoother.
“I reached out to Veterans Services at Hinds and, soon, I realized my dream of going into commercial aviation was not only feasible but physically possible,” said Mackey, a Marine Corps veteran who came to Hinds while recovering from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident after returning from active duty.
Mackey is attending Hinds on the Mississippi Airports Association Scholarship and plans to earn his pilot’s license. “Hinds has given me the gift of flight,” he said.
The office organized a special program to mark the Veterans Day holiday Nov. 11 in the Raymond Campus courtyard. Col. John Breland, commander of the Army’s 139th Legal Operations Detachment, spoke at the event.
The office strives to promote a smooth transition from the military to the academic environment for veterans and their families, often through collaboration with other departments at the college and with academic advisers available at each Hinds location.
“Our department helps veterans and their dependents navigate the Veterans Affairs system and certify about 600 students annually, on average, to the VA,” said Bryan Grove, assistant director of Veterans Services. “Also, we have received the Military Friendly School rating the past two years for our programs and policies.”
For many, such as Benjamin Everett, the first step is help with the process of accessing GI Bill benefits, residency status, any special academic accommodations, withdrawals due to deployments, referrals to other services both on and off campus.
Everett, of Madison, currently a staff sergeant in the Army and an online student at Hinds, is working with Veterans Services, which has helped him figure out his class schedule to tackle his core academic coursework.
“Hinds has helped me find the best education route to take based on my military experience,” Everett said. “They have also helped me get credit for military courses that would apply to my degree.”
Services offered by the department are geared to assist veterans achieve their goals, whether it be to upgrade job skills, change careers or transfer to a four-year institution, said Bryan Spurlock, adviser for financial aid for Veterans Services and retired first sergeant from the Marine Corps and Mississippi Army National Guard.
“Veterans Services is proud of the great strides we have made toward helping our veterans and their dependents obtain their hard-earned benefits and reach their educational goals,” Spurlock said.