Future tuition addressed
Students gathered at the grand lobby of DeMoss Hall Wednesday, Nov. 6 for a VIP Panel hosted during Military Emphasis Week, which featured nine speakers from Washington, D.C. who answered various questions regarding the current state of the U.S. military.
The questions were moderated by retired Maj. Gen. Robert F. Dees, Liberty University’s associate vice president for Military Outreach.
One of the most prominent topics discussed at the panel was the future of tuition assistance for people in the military. While no one at the panel had a definitive answer to this issue, they all noted that current budget restrictions and future budget plans selected by the president would inevitably play a role.
“I think it is a priority of the president to preserve a lot of long-life programs to service members and their families as much as possible,” Lt. Cmdr. Rob Niemeyer said. “Budgets are going to get cut, so I think there will be some sort of cuts to our tuitions assistance.”
Another issue reviewed at the panel was the treatment of soldiers returning to America from the war. Sgt. Larry Provost said the transition could be difficult.
“I think there is a lot of fear and uncertainty,” Provost said. “For some soldiers, this was the sole thing they want to do in life. They served their country, and they served it honorably. They nearly died and lost parts of themselves.”
Dees noted that many veterans are unable to adjust to their new lives.
“The latest statistic is 22 veterans across the land will kill themselves a day,” Dees said. “So we are talking huge numbers. Now military leadership is doing everything they can to keep those troops and their families taken care of appropriately, all the while they are dealing with the realities of budget.”
According to Col. Inez Sookma, soldiers returning to America with symptoms like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are a major issue.
“Sometimes we don’t see the symptoms of (PTSD) for a while, you don’t always see it right away,” Sookma said. “A lot of times they are holding it in, and it’s not visible to everybody. And it just explodes in some cases. It just comes out.”
Another potential problem, according to Sookma, is the impact of budget cuts on care of military equipment.
“The concern with the budget cuts is that you are affecting the long-term readiness of our units and the concern that we will not be able to provide the maintenance that is required of the equipment that we have on hand,” Sookma said.
Col. Tyra Harding said that, although the United States Army recognizes their challenges and shortcomings, they are making an effort to help the soldiers’ mental health through numerous campaigns. According to Harding, it is the responsibility of the leadership within the Army to address whatever problems the soldiers face.
“The United States Army is very active and proactive in recognizing the issues that our soldiers may have,” Harding said. “This is about campaigns and policies and procedures that allow the soldiers to come forward if they have a concern or issue whether it’s PTSD, whether it’s a sexual harassment order or whether it’s a suicide issue that they can come forward and seek help.”