Tech students form organization for service members

In the fall of 2013, the Service Members and Veterans of America (SMVA) was founded on the Arkansas Tech University campus as a means of support for individuals associated with the Armed Forces.

Aaron Scruggs, one of the five founding members and now president, said the organization offers peer advising through a veteran affairs and student partnership, as well as resources and support within a social environment to promote success and stability needed within families, for education and prospective employment.

“Our overall goal is to strengthen our veterans’ community on and off campus,” he said. “We want to encourage unification among our veteran population both young and old. It also serves the Tech veteran community as an advocacy group and is a part of the VA clergy.”

Veterans, service members, reservists, National Guard members and dependents (spouses, children and other family) are all welcomed to join, Scruggs said, and take part in social events, receive discrete help in any way needed, and help members of other branches without discrimination.

SUBMITTED/THE ARKA TECH: (From left) Cole Hendrix, Aaron Scruggs, Vance Morris, Frank Spears of VFW Post 2283 and Sean Cole represent the Service Members and Veterans of America at Arkansas Tech.
SUBMITTED/THE ARKA TECH: (From left) Cole Hendrix, Aaron Scruggs, Vance Morris, Frank Spears of VFW Post 2283 and Sean Cole represent the Service Members and Veterans of America at Arkansas Tech.

Scruggs said the community of Russellville has shown outstanding support for the SMVA. He said several members are also in localized chapters of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and various other organizations. This support has been reciprocated, as he and fellow members have worked with the local Ray of Hope food pantry.

The inceptive idea for the SMVA, Scruggs said, stemmed from former Tech student Ruben Vilireal. Vilireal approached Veteran Services after contacting Jeff Aulgur, 2013-14 faculty adviser, and expressed interest in the need for veteran advocacy and help in non-military endeavors. At the time there was no student-based veteran organization or student-led advocacy group on campus. Thus the need had to be filled.

That need has been met with swift response and then some, as the original organization has grown by more than 25 members since its beginning.

Current officers are Scruggs, a senior electrical engineering major and member of the Army National Guard; Megan Branch, a senior electrical engineering major who serves as the vice president and is an honorably-discharged Marine; Corey Edwards, a junior mechanical engineering major serving as secretary and an Army National Guard member; Vance Morris, a sophomore emergency management major responsible for public outreach who has served in the active Army and is now in the Army National Guard; and Sean Coyle, a senior communications major and treasurer who is an Army Reserve member.

Scruggs said each officer plans to start careers of their own upon graduation, but each will continue to be involved in and serve the community.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/ATUveterans or contact Scruggs at (479) 264-3836 or ascruggs@atu.edu.