ASU alumni form new veterans chapter

In a dimly lit room in the Tempe campus’ Old Main, 11 U.S. military veterans gathered around a square table Tuesday to make official the first veterans alumni chapter in Arizona. This new ASU Alumni Association - Veterans Chapter is open to any ASU alumni veterans.

The meeting itself was peppered with laughs and smiles as the new veterans chapter was christened, and hanging in the air were all the hopes and dreams of what the group could do to help student veterans at ASU.

“Because we’re the first, we’re the best,” David Lucier, president and CEO of the Arizona Veterans Foundation said jokingly. “On a more serious note, the veterans chapter is really part of a larger plan to support veterans on this campus.”

Lucier, a 1974 ASU graduate and Vietnam War veteran, said he wants to reach out to current student veterans to let them know support is available.

“When I went here in ’88 I didn’t know there was another veteran within three miles of this place,” said Art O'Hagan, a member of the chapter.

This is a problem Lucier said the group wants to remedy.

Doug Zimmerman, president of the ASU Veterans Alumni chapter, graduated in 1964. He is also a Vietnam War veteran and, like Lucier, wants to reach out to returning veterans.

“There are a lot of returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq who need help, and those of us who have been here before, we can and are going to help,” Zimmerman said. “We also want to get the message out to all students that it is important to support veterans on campus.”

Lucier said it can be difficult for veterans to come home and jump right back into life. One goal of the chapter is to make this transition easier.

“I had only been a couple of months off the battlefield and then here I was in Arizona on a campus,” Lucier said. “And it was just very strange. School wasn’t a combat environment and it was very difficult to make that transition from one environment to the other.”

Association member Corey Harris graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and an international studies certificate.

Harris has served two tours of duty in Iraq and agreed that there is an intense transition period when soldiers return from war.

“It’s strange,” Harris said. “You expect it to be alien going over but you don’t expect it to be alien coming back.”

The chapter couldn’t have come at a better time, he said.

“I think it’s important for the University to make a stand not just to get veterans in the door but also to get them through graduation,” Harris said. “We need to do whatever we can to take care of the needs of veterans that are different from a traditional student’s needs.”

Lucier said although getting veterans through college is a priority, he wants the chapter to do more than that.

“We want people to know that not all veterans live under a bridge,” Lucier said. “A lot of them come home and become very, very successful.”

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