Friday Letter 2016-11-11:
Celebrating 10 Years of Changing Lives with Operation Education
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Veterans Day is special at the University of Idaho. Our military tradition dates back to the famed “Chrisman Battalion” at the turn of the 20th century and continues to this day with our Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC and our commitment to veterans. Operation Education, a unique support program celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, exemplifies that culture of appreciation, respect and support.
Operation Education provides academic, social and financial support to those who have received service-related injuries since Sept. 11, 2011, as well as their spouses and families. In 10 years, the program has supported the educational aspirations of nearly 30 people. Operation Education scholars have graduated in a diverse array of undergraduate and graduate programs, in everything from public relations to civil engineering to natural resources to law.
We currently host six full-time students at UI. Read the story of Aaron Torres, a first-generation American who joined the U.S. Army Airborne Infantry in 2008, wanting to do his part for his country. That service took him to Iraq. With support from Operation Education, and thanks to his hard work and determination, Aaron is on a path to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and archaeology. I have no doubt he will go far.
Tonight we’ll celebrate this decade of commitment at our annual UI Veterans Appreciation Dinner. We are honored to be joined by Aaron and Bonnie Contreras, two of the first Operation Education scholars. Aaron, our guest speaker, graduated from UI’s College of Law in 2010 and is an active duty Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) captain. Bonnie is a 2010 College of Education graduate and a school psychologist. These two scholars epitomize the Vandal spirit, alongside Operation Education’s many other scholar alumni, current students and supporters.
When Mary Beth and I came to UI, Operation Education was one of the first programs in which Mary Beth became deeply involved, serving as honorary co-chair of the effort with Bonnie Amos, wife of UI alumnus and then-Marine Corps Commandant General James F. Amos. Our Operation Education advisory board, including chair Nancy Byers, co-chair Heidi Linehan, and other valued members, help this program thrive with their counsel and direction. Dan Button, our veterans advisor, helps so many veterans reach their goals, fostering a supportive environment at UI for our military.
This life-changing program is an important way UI can recognize and support those who have given so much for our country. Thank you to our military community — cadets, active-duty students and veterans — for making a sacrifice for something larger than yourselves. On this Veterans Day, we recognize how that service strengthens us all.