Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Injured Vets Get Help Reforging Their Lives

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Injured Vets Get Help Reforging Their Lives

Article excerpt

With Boise State University setting annual enrollment records and building its name as an athletic power, it's easy for those of us in this part of Idaho to ignore the achievements of Idaho's other universities. We shouldn't. Credit the University of Idaho (UI) with an idea that other universities would do well to emulate.

Instead of talking about supporting our troops, UI is doing it in a meaningful way. Tom Prewitt is proof. He graduated from the university in May with a degree in wildlife resources and now works for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe as a wildlife habitat biologist. What does that have to do with supporting our troops? Prewitt was one of our troops. He has a permanent disability from injuries suffered while serving in the Army in Afghanistan.

Graduating from college might still be a dream for him if not for a UI program that helps wounded veterans and their spouses. It's called Operation Education[TM], and Prewitt is its first graduate. The program is the first of its kind in the nation. The idea for it came when Heidi Linehan of the university's office of development spent time with veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "She was moved by the spirit of the veterans going through rehab there," Operation Education[TM] chairwoman, Karen White, said. "She came to me to because I have a background in physical education and a connection with the president. (UI President, Tim White, is her husband.) "She wanted to know how we could help injured veterans, and we decided the obvious thing was to provide scholarships and help them with their education. These are people who need to rethink how they're going to make a living, contribute to society, and feed their families, and higher education is the key. It's what we can do to thank them for what they've done in behalf of our country."

Operation Education[TM] provides veterans severely wounded since Sept. 11, 2001 with tuition, fees, books, transportation, on-campus housing, medical assistance, child care, and other benefits. Two students have enrolled through it this year. Spouses also are eligible. "We made it available to spouses because wounded veterans might not be able to work outside of the home due to their injuries," UI spokeswoman, Joni Kirk, said. "The spouse in those cases will be the breadwinner." It's hard to overestimate the value of that kind of help for those who have been sustained disabilities serving their country.

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

College has become so expensive that G. …

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