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Veterans Center honors tradition of potluck meals

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – There is an unofficial-but-widespread military tradition whereby members of military units regularly meet over a potluck-style meal.

Once a semester since 2013, the UCM Military and Veterans Success Center hosts such a potluck. This semester the meal will be 11 a.m. Nov. 7 at the center, located in the lower level of the Elliott Student Union. All military-connected students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend.

Jeff Huffman, director of the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, said these sorts of meals encourage the development of community and camaraderie within military units.

“A big part of what makes the United States military such a successful organization is that when you hear ‘We’re like a family,’ it really means that,” he said. “What do families do? They share meals with each other. They share everything, pretty much.”

Brandon Anderson, president of the Student Veterans Organization, said this semester’s potluck will be something of a sendoff for the military-connected students who are graduating.

Huffman said these potlucks are meant to ease the transition for military-connected students from the rigidity of military service to the new rigors of continuing their education.

“Keep in mind, most of those folks that are military-connected at UCM, they chose a different route,” Huffman said. “They didn’t go to college first. They went to the military first. Now they’ve earned their benefit, and they’re coming back to college. We’re just trying to make them comfortable while they’re here so that they can get across the finish line.”

He said that in a lot of ways, the years spent in college are the only years spent transitioning from military life to civilian life. The potluck meal at the Military and Veterans Service Center is another way to offer military-connected students, faculty and staff something familiar during that transition.

“It’s just a way for all of us to come together and maybe talk about how the semester is going,” said Lisa Morse, VA school certifying official at the Office of Military and Veteran Services. “We can kind of touch base more on a personal level with them than we already have.”

Huffman said the potluck meal is a great way for military-connected members of the campus community, especially the students, to meet people with similar paths and backgrounds who can encourage them to continue their educations.

“There are folks that are freshmen, and they’re just now transitioning out, and there are folks that are seniors, and they’re going to help each other through that transition phase,” Huffman said. “There are some that are unsure of their ability to be a college student, but then they’re looking at someone that’s been there before them and they’re saying, ‘Oh yeah, I can do that. He’s the same military specialty code that I was, and he was a diesel mechanic when he was in the Marine Corps, and now he’s getting his degree? I can do that, too.’ It’s beneficial.”

Katie Bond, coordinator of academic transition at the Office of Military and Veteran Services, said the potluck provides a reason for people to get together.

“Everybody loves food, so it’s an easy way to get people to come in and take advantage of being able to spend time together,” she said.

A signup sheet is in the Office of Military and Veteran Services in the lower level of the Elliott Student Union for anyone interested in contributing to and attending the potluck.

“There’s a lot of success stories in this center, right here,” Huffman said. “Folks that didn’t think they could, and they did. That’s why I love my job. It’s an awesome job.”

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