Column: Serving and educating our Armed Forces community
The upcoming Armed Forces Day on May 18 is an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have served in the military and their families. At Texas A&M-San Antonio , where nearly 20 percent of our student body identifies as military-connected, I am fortunate to to be able to thank many of them personally.
We are proud to be the academic home for students such as Zachary Butler, a South Carolina native who joined the U.S. Army at age 17 and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After his military discharge, Zachary wanted to find a meaningful career. His journey eventually led him to A&M-SA in pursuit of higher education. He and his wife, Krystina, have together chased that dream. After earning an associate degree in teaching, Krystina transferred to A&M-SA, starting classes in fall 2016. Zachary followed in spring 2017, after completing an associate degree in exercise science.
Both Zachary and Krystina were among the nearly 800 A&M-SA students who graduated in December. Zachary earned a bachelor’s degree in community health, while Krystina earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with dual teaching certifications. Their story is like that of so many military families who are or have made the transition to civilian life and pursued higher education.
At A&M-SA, we take great pride in sharing stories like the Butlers’ because we live our commitment as a Military-Embracing institution. As part of a community that is home to 250,000 veterans and 80,000 active-duty military personnel, our commitment is instilled throughout our entire campus. A&M-SA faculty and staff are required to complete a Military Competency program, which helps them understand how best to serve military-connected students in higher education. A&M-SA is the only university in the country that makes this course a mandatory training requirement.
Another way that A&M-SA works to ensure the academic success for military-connected students is through our Office of Military Affairs, which is housed in Patriots’ Casa, the University’s beautiful, one-of-a-kind “academic home for the brave.”
Our Military Affairs team is led by Director of Military Affairs Richard Delgado, Jr., a 2010 A&M-SA graduate and U.S. Marine Corp veteran. He and his staff support our active duty and veteran students, as well as military spouses and dependents, in transitioning to civilian life and higher education.
At A&M-SA, we take our responsibility to our military-connected students very seriously.
Five years ago, we were honored to become one of only four Texas universities, and the first in San Antonio, to earn designation as a Purple Heart University. The Military Order of the Purple Heart, which approves this designation to qualified universities, seeks to foster an environment of goodwill and camaraderie among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support necessary legislative initiatives, and provide service to all veterans and their families.
In November, we became the newest, and only the seventh Trefoil sponsor, of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, and jointly developed an Embracing Patriotism patch. It can be earned by Girl Scouts who complete a program that includes topics on commitment, respect, honor, courage and excellence. We are also proud to have been named one of the top 100 “Best for Vets” colleges by Military Times.
Such distinctions are particularly important to me because they confirm we are meeting one of A&M-SA’s most important commitments: Serving those who have served.
To learn more about A&M-SA’s Office of Military Affairs and Patriots’ Casa, please visit tamusa.edu/militaryaffairs/.
Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Ed.D., is president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.