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Event salutes MCC employee and student military veterans; four new Helms scholarship recipients announced

November 11, 2020
By Tim Engle

MCC-Penn Valley Adult Learner Lounge
MCC-Penn Valley instructor Lyle Gibson, a U.S. Air Force veteran, in 1986

MCC's employee and student military veterans were celebrated at a virtual program Nov. 10. At the Chancellor's Veterans Day Event the chancellor herself, Dr. Kimberly Beatty, gave the honor of announcing four new winners of the Reggie Helms Memorial Scholarship to her sister Karla Frazier. Their late father, a Vietnam War veteran, is the scholarship's namesake.

The 2020 scholarship recipients (who will be awarded one year of MCC tuition) are MCC student veterans Lukas Beard, Dalton Fosmoe, Jason Gields and Tammy Le.

At the Zoom event, nine military veterans within the College's employee ranks talked about their service and obstacles they faced later, and offered advice about the transition from military to college. A few moments from the program:

"If you can imagine, sitting through a lecture in a lawn chair is not the ideal thing to do." — Jason ("Jay') Gields, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and scholarship winner, in a video message. Gields says he has treated college like a job, dedicating eight hours a day to attending class and studying at the library. Then came the pandemic, which confined him to home with that lawn chair but no desk. The scholarship will allow him to buy one.

"I was the company clerk, much like Radar in 'M*A*S*H.'" — Genea Wilson (MCC-Longview), who joined the Women's Army Corps at age 29 after 10 years working at the KU Library. Also while at Fort MacArthur in California, she was part of an on-call, search-and-rescue mountain climbing team.

"We spent most of our careers being the lone Chiefs fans in the room." — Jeff Ullmann (Administrative Center), who with wife Kim moved 13 times in 26 years. Both are retired U.S. Air Force colonels. They met in college and married their senior year.

"I grew up real fast. I had a drill sergeant who liked to get in my face and tell me he was going to tear my heart out."— Kim Moriconi (MCC-Blue River and Business & Technology), who served 22 years in the U.S. Army. She did basic training as a 17-year-old between her junior and senior years of high school, then graduated and resumed her military career at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. And by the way, she came to appreciate that mean drill sergeant "for his determination to make me a soldier."

"That will teach you how to get through college." — Diane Boldt (MCC-Longview), who in the U.S. Army trained as a linguist and codebreaker. At the Defense Language Institute in California, she assumed she'd be taught Russian but would instead spend 47 weeks "doing nothing but learning Mandarin Chinese."

"Don't try to be Superman or Wonder Woman when you first go back to school."— April Cochran (MCC-Maple Woods), who retired in Kansas City after 20 years of service in the Marines. Her husband, who retired a year earlier, "jumped into college," taking 23 credits his first semester. April signed up for 17 hours, but she had two little kids at home and was overwhelmed. Her advice: Talk to your advisor and figure out what you can handle, then adjust accordingly.

"There are people who have been in your shoes. That's a resource, but also look at those different departments within MCC to determine how you can access the resources you need as a veteran." — Lyle Gibson (MCC-Penn Valley), offering advice to returning military members who want to earn a degree. Gibson, whose U.S. Air Force tour in Greece inspired him to learn more about history and culture, is today a history instructor.

The event was presented by the MCC Student Engagement Team and the Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion. To learn more about military/veteran services at MCC, visit mcckc.edu/military.

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