Wicker Honors Student Veterans

Updates to G.I. Bill, Greater Campus Outreach Help Foster Career Success

November 5, 2018

The sacrifices made by Mississippians on behalf of freedom are known around the world.  On this Veterans Day, one of those heroes – Columbia native Sam Bond Dale Jr. – will be remembered with a ceremony and plaque in Le Mesnil-Fuguet, France.  The village was where the young pilot lost his life after his plane was shot down by Germans during World War II.

Dale made the ultimate sacrifice, never returning to the United States to start a family or build a career.  For the World War II soldiers who did come home, a new national effort had been launched to help with the transition after the war, enabling veterans to go back to school or buy a home.  That effort became known as the first G.I. Bill.  Since then, the G.I. Bill has helped millions of veterans and their family members obtain a college degree or vocational training.  Some 1.1 million student veterans across the nation are utilizing this benefit today.

Expansion of G.I. Bill Benefits

Although the G.I. Bill’s origins go back to World War II, former Mississippi Congressman Sonny Montgomery is responsible for ensuring that these benefits would not be lost to later generations.  His dedication even earned him the nickname “Mr. Veteran.”  The resulting legislation, commonly known as the “Montgomery G.I. Bill,” has played an immeasurable role in the continued recruitment of the best and brightest Americans into our military.

Over the past decade, I have supported several major expansions to the “Montgomery G.I. Bill,” voting in favor of the “Post-9/11 G.I. Bill” in 2008 and the “Forever G.I. Bill” in 2017.  Today, the benefits of the G.I. Bill extend to more veterans than ever before and no longer have an expiration date, letting veterans control their own educational timelines.

Welcoming University Communities

Such policies are needed at the federal level, but they do not stand alone.  I am glad to see the university support for student veterans growing stronger in our state.  For example, in recent years, our universities have opened new centers on campus where veterans can find support for academic success and a welcoming environment.  Earlier this year, Mississippi State, which has been designated as a “Purple Heart University,” launched a free tuition program for service members in the Mississippi National Guard.  More recently, on November 2 and 3, the University of Mississippi had an opportunity to host VA Secretary Robert Wilkie as part of its Warrior Week to honor the student veterans and faculty veterans within its campus community.

Lessons From the Past

The stories of our veterans will continue to teach future generations, thanks to a special collection of personal accounts and memorabilia at the Library of Congress.  The Veterans History Project, which was created in 2000, encompasses more than a century of primary sources from our military veterans. 

I hope this year’s Veterans Day – which also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I – will inspire others to contribute to the Veterans History Project or to spend some time discovering the many stories that have already been collected.  These snapshots of history are truly a national treasure and a reminder of the American sacrifices around the world that have been made to preserve freedom.  For more information, please visit www.loc.gov/vets.