URI dedicates new facility to help veterans transition to college life

On Sept. 7, the University of Rhode Island officially opened a new facility at its Kingston Campus to help veterans.

The facility continues the work of the old Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs. The Center assists URI’s veterans, current military and military-connected students, as well as prospective students with veterans’ and military benefits, GI bill certification, financial aid and scholarships.

URI enrolls close to 300 veterans or active military, with about 140 military dependents. Those numbers have grown steadily in recent years. The Class of 2022 included 57 military veterans – 32 undergraduates and 25 graduate students.

Cutting the ribbon at the Sept. 7 opening of URI’s Center for Military and Veteran Education.
From left: Col. John Petrella Jr. '68, USA, retired; Michelle Fontes '96, interim assistant VP, URI Office of Community, Equity and Diversity; Sgt. Tracy Santos '24, USMC; Marc Parlange, president, University of Rhode Island; Maj. Gen. Christopher P. Callahan, Rhode Island Adjutant General; Sean Edmund Rogers, VP, URI Office of Community, Equity and Diversity; Col. William P. Babcock '68, USA, retired.
Cutting the ribbon at the Sept. 7 opening of URI’s Center for Military and Veteran Education. From left: Col. John Petrella Jr. '68, USA, retired; Michelle Fontes '96, interim assistant VP, URI Office of Community, Equity and Diversity; Sgt. Tracy Santos '24, USMC; Marc Parlange, president, University of Rhode Island; Maj. Gen. Christopher P. Callahan, Rhode Island Adjutant General; Sean Edmund Rogers, VP, URI Office of Community, Equity and Diversity; Col. William P. Babcock '68, USA, retired.

Bronx native Tracy Santos, president of the URI Student Veterans Organization, who is studying clinical neuroscience, sees the Center as a way to help student veterans transition to college life.

“Learning how to navigate from military to civilian life can be incredibly difficult. Many veterans don’t make it due to a lack of resources, support and understanding, so having those resources in one place and a community to turn to can help make that transition easier,” said Santos.

President Marc Parlange said, “It is my hope that all our military-connected students, faculty and staff will find a sense of place and belonging here at the University…and that the Center will serve as not only a resource to help achieve those goals but also a place where all feel welcome.”

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URI’s Memorial Union opened in 1954 and stands as living memorial to the 187 members of the URI community killed during World War II and the Korean Conflict.

The new Center will house staff offices as well as space for the URI Student Veterans Organization. The Center will be open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Outreach for Aviation Hall of Fame Relatives Bears Fruit

In my August 22 column, I asked readers for help identifying living descendants of several potential honorees of the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame (RIAHOF). Over the years, RIAHOF has identified a number of war heroes whose gallantry and/or military aviation service fully merits recognition by the Hall of Fame. However, the recognition of a number of these veterans has been deferred because no living relatives have been identified to accept the awards.

More than a dozen readers responded, some with useful tips and others with new nominations to the Hall of Fame.

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Bonnie Wade Mucia is a professional genealogist now living in South Carolina, but she was born and raised in Woonsocket. “A friend of mine tagged me on Facebook and that’s how I heard of your article,” Bonnie emailed. “She knew that I could help…so I reached out to you.”

Bonnie has an uncanny ability to find living people. Within two weeks she had tracked down a living descendant of all five candidates in the column. “I love this kind of work,” she told me.

Golf Tournament Raises Money for Operation Stand Down

On Saturday, Sept. 10, about 60 golfers participated in a charity golf tournament held at Pinecrest Golf Club in Carolina, R.I., to benefit Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI). This was the seventh such event sponsored by the Southeastern New England chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).

“A spectacular sunny day resulted in a great golf experience for all the participants,” said Albert Ferri, president of the chapter, who expected net proceeds of the day to be about $12,000. Over the years, this group has raised more than $60,000 to benefit homeless veterans.

MOAA is a non-profit service organization supporting all active and retired veterans of all the military uniformed services and their families and survivors.

Filing a Claim for Toxic Exposure
Under the PACT Act

On Aug. 10, President Biden signed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act — more simply called the PACT Act. The new act expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances.

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To see a complete list of the new presumptive conditions and presumptive exposure service locations, visit www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/

This page will help answer your questions about what the PACT Act means for you or your loved ones. You can also call the VA at 800-698-2411.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Learn to play the acoustic guitar: This Providence Vet Center program is offered through a partnership with Guitars for Veterans. All participants are asked to complete 10 sessions, at the end of which they will be awarded a free acoustic guitar. The guitar program is very popular and there is a waiting list, so anybody who is interested should sign up sooner rather than later. Vet Center eligibility required. Call (401) 739-0167 or email Paul.Santilli@va.gov

The Steel Yard’s Fabrication Nights will run Wednesday and Friday nights, 6-9 p,m. through October; 27 Sims Ave, Providence. Help make art for their annual Halloween Iron Pour. Come build larger-than-life props for a breathtaking spectacle of iron, and learn useful skills in the process. No experience necessary. Wear work clothes, closed toed shoes and gloves. Bring a water bottle and snack. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and make something truly impressive! For details call 401-273-7101 or visit www.thesteelyard.org

CALENDAR

Saturday, Oct. 8, 12 p.m.: Welcome Home luncheon, 107th Signal Company, RIARNG/VIETNAM, “commemorating our return from active duty.” Lancellotta's Restaurant, 1113 Charles St., North Providence. Cost: $30. Former members should contact Bill Cilli at (401) 486-2542.

Monday, Oct. 10, 12-4 p.m.: “Pre-Veterans Day,” Complimentary Veterans Lunch at Texas Roadhouse, 1200 Quaker Lane, East Greenwich. Reservations required; there are only 50 spots available. Email Missy at 278marketing@texasroadhouse.com or call/text (860) 465-6364.

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Every Thursday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.: Art Expression Group offered by the Providence Vet Center, 2038 Warwick Ave., Warwick 02889.  Vet Center eligibility required; artistic talent not required. Service members and veterans, test your skills with a paintbrush. Free Instruction provided by professionals. Email Heather Tarducci at Heather.Tarducci@va.gov or call (401) 739-0167

To report the outcome of a previous activity, or to add a future event to our calendar, please email the details (including a contact name and phone number/email address) to veteranscolumn@providencejournal.com

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: URI's Kingston campus opens facility to help veterans