The Military Veteran Service Center: Jerome Richardson’s “Second Mission”
By Dan Sheridan
“To bid a final adieu to the armies he has so long had the honor to command, [the commander-in-chief] can only again offer in their behalf his recommendations to their grateful country, and his prayers…May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of heaven’s favors…attend those who…have secured innumerable blessings for others…” George Washington, Farewell to the Army.
The coffee is always on at Bellevue University’s Military Veteran Service Center. On any given day, you can walk into the nearly 6000 square foot center and see brothers and sisters in arms talking, drinking coffee, strumming an instrument, or working on a school assignment at a computer.
“Bellevue University sees our men and women in uniform, not as a business proposition to add to its bottom line by paying ‘pro military’ lip-service, but as heroes who should be provided a first-class education as well as genuine transitional assistance.”
Those are the words of Jerome Richardson, Director of the Military Veteran Service Center, known warmly as JR by those who’ve met him.
In addition to providing educational services for our heroes, Bellevue University, in 2012, hired Richardson to create the Military Veteran Service Center.
The center, staffed with veterans with experience both in the field and in the classroom, provides a comfort zone, a place for association and connects vets to resources including counseling, benefits, education, employment, and more. “We have a shared DNA because of our basic training, because of our missions, and because of our willingness to give the last full measure of devotion, that blank check we all wrote regardless of what our role in the military was.”
“I wanted the MVSC to have the same welcoming feeling as a USO,” continues Richardson, “to help those on active duty or transitioning out with what I would call their ‘second mission;’ to serve all veterans in that next mission, whatever it is.”
That next mission may be their education through Bellevue University, a job in the private sector, or whatever else is needed - even helping a veteran recover from sickness. According to Richardson, a veteran who was going though chemo spent a lot of time at the MVSC recovering after his treatments. “He was welcomed to relax at the center and be around fellow veterans,” explains Richardson, “because he had no other options. We understood what he was going through, and because of this kind of environment I believe his recovery was a lot quicker. We want to serve our veterans in whatever, and we do mean whatever that next mission is.”
The MVSC visitors consist of WW2, Korean, Vietnam, and 9/11 vets, people who have already transitioned and yet still need help from time to time. To assist in meeting their needs, Richardson brought in Jon Kayne, Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Bellevue University, to oversee training the staff in mental health first aid. “This training has helped us,” according to Richardson, “to be more attentive listeners, to be more compassionate and understanding, which helps us to better assist veterans through those transitional moments.”
For years, many believed mental health issues were the result of personal defects, and because of the stigmatization associated with them veterans were afraid to seek out help. According to Richardson, the MVSC is their judgment-free haven. The center has helped veterans from all walks of life, from every kind of service and from every war, to make it through their challenges.
“We want to do the right thing,” says Richardson, “and the right thing is to serve whatever veteran walks through that door. Bellevue University was birthed by the community, by a veteran to serve the military population. I’m proud to be part of Bellevue University. It gives me goosebumps to think of the thousands of veteran graduates and the numerous veteran faculty at the University who have served and continue to serve.”
The Military Veteran Service Center celebrates its fifth anniversary on June 1, 2018. Stop on in, a fresh pot of coffee awaits you.
For more information about the Military Veteran Service Center: http://www.bellevue.edu/prospective-students/military/military-services-center