From the nation’s earliest days, soldiers have done what they were asked. They followed orders. Sometimes, the task and eternity were travelers on the same road. It is where they took their last step. But most came home to deal with a different kind of challenge.
For those who fought World War II, the road ahead was made significantly more navigable with the G.I. Bill of Rights. For the first time, returning veterans were provided a means to go to college instead of heading back to the farm or in a direction they may never have considered. It changed America.
Today at Colorado State University-Pueblo, veterans have become an important part of the student body. More than 400 veterans, dependents and active duty students are enrolled. CSU-Pueblo has also been designated as the first college or university in Colorado as Purple Heart University for its dedication and support honoring the country’s combat wounded veterans and their families.
“It’s an honor and testimony to Pueblo’s long-standing commitment to honoring those that have served and sacrificed” said CSU-Pueblo President Timothy Mottet. The announcement was made late last month.
The designation, made by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, will usher in a wide range of services for veterans and their dependents at the Pueblo school. CSU-Pueblo joins Texas A&M, Oklahoma State University and a handful of schools across the country with the designation.
“We provide counseling, both educational and mental health,” said Dana Roche, CSU-Pueblo’s Director of Military and Veterans Success Center. “We help them pick their educational goals and offer a place to relax.” Veterans also can qualify for scholarships. The Purple Heart Scholarship is dedicated to those students who have been awarded the Purple Heart. “We’ve probably awarded a minimum of ten scholarships,” said Roche. Each scholarship is valued at $1,000. The department also offers a Daniels Military Scholarship.
Being a Purple Heart University is in line with Pueblo’s unique military legacy. As travelers enter the city, they see signs announcing Pueblo as the “Home of Heroes.” The town also has a Medal of Honor Memorial in honor of its four Medal of Honor recipients. There is also a Viet Nam Memorial on campus that has the names of every service member from Colorado killed in the Viet Nam War.
While Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11th, CSU-Pueblo will hold a week-long celebration of it and the city’s veterans. The high point will be a special luncheon at the school on Tuesday. The keynote will be delivered by David Andrew, Commander, Department of Military Order. The official commemoration of the Purple Heart designation will follow the next day.
Roche credits President Mottet for the school’s focus on its veteran population. “When he came on board, he gave us seven recommendations.” The school instituted a program making it easier to transfer credits. “We also added additional faculty and training and help with retention.”
“We were missing a huge population,” said Roche. It included active duty, dependents, spouses and children. The school has been aggressive in its veteran’s outreach for the last two years.
The school’s relationship with veterans is important, said Roche, because of the unusually high number of veterans living in the region as well as those retiring and remaining in the state. “Colorado is the number one state in the nation of retiring military veterans.”
The Purple Heart medal is awarded to military members who have been killed or wounded in war. Originally known as the Badge of Military Merit during the Revolutionary War, it was renamed as the Purple Heart medal in 1917.