How Civilians Can Help Returning Veterans

SVA_friendslibrary2 9-28

Ray Mollison, president of the USF Student Veterans Association, Bobbie O’Brien, WUSF reporter, and Pat Schweikart, an SVA officer and Marine Reservist.

On what was the most pleasant and least humid Saturday in the Tampa Bay area since April, some chose to spend a few hours inside.

The Friends of the St. Petersburg Library gathered in the auditorium of the main library to learn about the challenges and successes of the newest generation of veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Student Veterans President at USF Ray Mollison and SVA officer Patrick Schweikart served as their guides.

They said the SVA’s mission is to serve student veterans but also to reach out to the community.

Their outreach includes helping to build homes for injured veterans through Homes for Our Troops, joint exercise like runs and cycling and social outings with Team Red, White and Blue  and making presentations to public groups.

One of the questions they fielded was what civilians could do to get involved and help veterans. Ray started it off with two suggestions:

  1. Participate in Team Red, White and Blue events like the cycling he did this morning. He said civilians are more than welcome to become part of the team.
  2. In-state tuition for veterans is the top priority for the USF student veterans. Their chapter has tried for several years to get it passed by the legislature. Last year, the bill never made it out of a senate committee. Rep. Kathleen Peters and Sen. Jack Latvala are co-sponsoring veterans in-state tuition bill for the 2014 session. So, Ray suggested they could help lobby lawmakers this year to get legislation passed.

There are a myriad of options to offer help to a veteran. Here are a few ideas:

  • Join the Got Your 6 program – it offers the community ways to share in the sacrifice and show appreciation for those who have served like becoming a mentor or providing care packages for homeless veterans.
  • Wreaths Across America – The group of veterans who fund-raise for the wreaths at Bushnell National Cemetery are trying to get enough donations for 10,000 wreaths in 2013. They also need volunteers to lay the wreaths before the holidays.
  • Support the Troops Inc. – Volunteer to help put together packages for troops deployed overseas.
  • Honor Flight West Coast Florida – Volunteer to escort a World War II veteran for a day of touring national memorials in Washington D.C.

If you have an idea on how civilians in your community can help veterans and military families, write a comment or send me an email at

A final thank you to the USF SVA and Friends of the St. Petersburg Library for including me in an informative afternoon that offered some laughs and some tasty lemon bars.


One Response

  1. Through a series of events, a psychiatrist and psychologist at an Arkansas VA hospital are using posts from my site to assist in the care of their veterans. I am so happy and proud that some good has come out of this, I thought I’d explode if I didn’t tell someone.

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