FAIRBORN, Ohio (WDTN) — The Veteran and Military Center at Wright State University opened seven years ago after determining there was a need for it.

It supports student veterans in their academic journey as they learn to navigate the world of higher education.

“They’re 22-years-old, and they’re a very different 22-year-old from a 22-year-old that hasn’t been out in the world and hasn’t traveled,” states Seth Gordon, the Director of the Veteran and Military Center at Wright State University. “It’s not an easy job to be in the military. There are long hours. There are stressful situations–whether you’re a combat veteran or not. Some of the things you’ve seen are difficult to process.”

First created in 2013, the Veteran and Military Center gives student veterans a common space to share stories of combat and survival.

“We want to create a space where veteran students, student veterans feel like they belong,” says Gordon.

Recognizing their needs differ from the typical college student, the center helps process GI bills.

“The post 9/11 GI bill creates a circumstance for adults who want to come to school, almost like a normal college student,” says Gordon. “They have different needs. They’ve had widely different responsibilities.”

While processing GI bills is considered one of the center’s primary services, the support for students extends beyond that; in the age of COVID, it looks a little different.

“Our primary responsibility during COVID is to make sure students have all of their needs met in terms of processing their GI bill and answering questions as it relates to changing schedules and how it affects their corresponding GI bill,” describes Gordon. “Seventy percent of our courses are in a remote learning environment. So we’re also trying to connect them with the resources they need, if they need help navigating that very different environment than what they signed up for.”

Equipped with a computer lab, lounge, kitchen, and private study rooms, the space has room for about 50 students at one time. During the pandemic, it’s stayed largely empty even though the service is still there.

“Our tutoring center gets a lot of use right now actually, as much or more than it got before,” admits Gordon.

While the center works to meet demands virtually, they are looking forward to when the space is active again.

“I look forward to having students here again. It’s really weird to be on campus without them,” states Gordon.

The center is also planning on expanding and building a patio outside called the Champions Garden to honor veterans for their service.