Gazebo Gazette

Less than one percent of Americans currently serve in the military, enabling the rest to enjoy freedoms often taken for granted. The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Center for Military Veterans, Service Members, and Families is committed to helping those who sacrificed so much with a wide range of benefits.

True Southern Miss grit is radiated through Stacy Henley, Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Benefits Coordinator at the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach. Her family’s military history has inspired her to give back to those who have worn the uniform. She’s proud to provide a space at Gulf Park to offer educational help for students.

“We assist the students with their educational benefits and in doing so we help them complete their educational goals. We try to bring the military community together at USM in providing access to benefits that can help them be successful,” said Henley.

Henley expressed the importance of providing educational resources along the coast for USM military veterans. Providing a sense of comradery and unity on campus is a way to help transitioning service members and their families find a place they can call home.

“It gives USM military veterans a place to come together and provide a time to ask questions. They feel more comfortable knowing that someone has been through what they have been through. It makes it easier for them to sit down and talk to you,” states Henley.

Originally from Bay Saint Louis, Miss, Henley calls McHenry, Miss home. Her love for the Gulf Coast has placed her at Gulf Park for 25 years starting in Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs, then later transitioning to VA Educational Benefits for Gulf Park students. She points out that having resources available to many military veterans along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is vital.

“It’s easier for them to come here if they live on the coast,” said Henley. “It’s a good thing to have a presence here.”

Major Gen. Jeff Hammond, Director of Veterans and Military Affairs at USM, is retired from service but dedicates his life to helping those military veterans and students on the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses.

“The USM Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families fully incorporates all the support services for military connected students on both our Hattiesburg and Long Beach campus locations,” said Hammond. “This includes a VA Benefits Coordinator Veteran Services Official operating from offices located in Hardy Hall.”

Misty Manning, USM marine biologist student, expresses her gratitude to Stacy and the Veteran’s Center.

“My husband is a veteran. Just knowing the service exists is great… because not many people know the services exist,” said Manning.

“As one of the Top-10 Military Friendly schools across the United States, we consider it an honor to care for all our South Mississippi military connected students and their families,” said Maj. Gen. Hammond.

(Contributed to by Gabriela Shinskie)