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Military spouses find support at UCM

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – Just as with soldiers, military spouses accustomed to the rigors of a military lifestyle sometimes find coming to school can be an uncomfortable experience.

“People in this office have talked to me more than people in any of my classes,” said Amanda Wagner, a senior communications major whose husband was in the Army, of the Military and Veterans Success Center. “And so that was really relieving and relaxing that I could actually, possibly have friends for life. I can relate to them because I know some of the things they’re going through, some of the concepts they talk about.”

UCM and the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs extends military benefits to military spouses, and lending them the services of the Military and Veterans Success Center in the lower level of the Elliott Student Union helps ease them into the campus culture.

UCM is not only recognized as a Military Friendly School by Victory Media in its annual Military Friendly Schools Guide, but it is also recognized as being friendly to military spouses.

“If a military spouse comes to UCM, they’re going to get the military tuition package, just like the active duty person,” said Jeff Huffman, director of the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs. “That’s kind of unique. A lot of campuses across the country will offer the active duty member or the Guard or Reserve member a benefit… but not the family members. We offer it across the board.”

This distinction isn’t only important to the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs. UCM President Chuck Ambrose said the community’s and the university’s close ties to Whiteman Air Force Base make having a positive relationship with military and military-connected students imperative.

“Our best means to serve the nation, state and our local community is certainly to serve those who serve,” Ambrose said. “The very best way to support the global mission of Whiteman Air Force Base is not only to serve active servicemen but, perhaps more importantly, their spouses and families.”

One aspect of a soldier’s job is being called upon to serve. When they are away, it can mean half of a partnership is also gone.

“Having children, that meant I don’t get a break,” Wagner said. “I’m taking care of the kids, taking care of myself, taking care of the animals, the home, all by myself. We were somewhere away from family, so I can’t be like, ‘Hey mom, I need a break.’ So I had to realize it was all on me, and if something happened, it wasn’t going to be easy to get him back home.”

Amber Ishmael, a senior communications major and a member of the Air National Guard, has a unique perspective. She was deployed in 2013 to Djibouti, a country in East Africa, and her husband, Staff Sgt. Austin Ishmael, is currently deployed in Djibouti. He has also been deployed twice to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Wagner and Ishmael both said that while they are taking care of things at home, they must remain strong not just for themselves, but for their husbands.

Ishmael said she would much rather be deployed herself.

“When I was deployed, it was so much easier,” she said. “Being the one left at home, it is ridiculous.

“You’re strong for them, and you’re strong for yourself, because if things fall apart back home, he’s not going to be very worthwhile to the mission if he’s worried about me,” Ishmael said.

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