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Jon White ’24 spent 20 years serving in the United States Marine Corps, retiring at the rank of Staff Sergeant. Today, he’s a Political Science major and Philosophy and Leadership minor trying to create an environment on campus that’s more appealing to veterans.

Working toward that goal, White and two fellow Marine Corps veterans — Kyle Jacobs ’23 and Zach Hiserote ’24 — recently established the first Marietta College Student Veterans of America chapter.

“We’re here trying to work up the support system on campus so we can attract more veterans to Marietta,” White says.

Jason Nulton, Community Engagement Coordinator through the McDonough Center for Leadership & Business, says the chapter started in response to Marietta’s application to receive the Purple Star designation, which means the College shows a major commitment to students and families connected to the U.S. Armed Forces. The application strongly encourages the formation of a veteran-centric campus organization.

“We were also encouraged to start it after we discovered that MC alum and former Trustee Major General (USMC) Chris Cortez ’71 was the national chair. We spoke to Gen. Cortez as well as SVA CEO Jared Lyon, who were very encouraging — and who we hope to host in the future,” Nulton says.

SVA is open to students who are veterans and military-affiliated, such as those attending through the GI Bill.

“This is an excellent organization with many opportunities for students to network and get involved in the community around veterans’ issues,” Nulton says.

With the support and encouragement of President Bill Ruud, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army, Nulton has been actively working to improve the support of veterans on campus. In addition to pursuing the Purple Star designation, a Veterans’ Center lounge space has been planned for McDonough 204. The project was supported through this year’s Day of Giving — and 17 donors provided $8,105 to renovate the space, which will be ready by the end of summer 2023. The lounge will have comfortable seating, study spaces, and a kitchenette. Veterans and military-affiliated students and employees can use the space, which also will be used by the SVA for meetings.

During one of their first meetings, Marietta’s SVA chapter briefly discussed what would be their first service project supporting Stack Up, “a 501(C)3 military charity supporting active and veteran service members from the U.S. and allied nations by promoting positive mental health and suicide prevention through gaming and geek culture,” according to Stack Up’s mission statement.

“We are including the esports team, but we are trying to market a campus-wide call-to-arms that will reach everyone, and our end goal is an event where students can ‘pie’ faculty,” Hiserote says.

Hiserote, a Journalism/Broadcasting major with a minor in Graphic Design and a Certificate in Communication, served in the Marines for five years and earned the rank of Sergeant. Jacobs, a Physics major, served for 4 ½ years and earned the rank of Corporal.

White chose Marietta because it has a Philosophy program — “None of the other schools I was looking at had it,” White says. Jacobs is from St. Marys, West Virginia, so he and his wife had family support to help with their young children. Hiserote worked on major construction projects after serving in the military before enrolling at Marietta. It took some time to figure out what he wanted to major in, but he eventually landed on academic programs that blended his creativity with his interest in technology.

All three men carve out time to connect with each other and lay the foundation of support for future student veterans at Marietta. “It’s just us right now,” says Hiserote, “but we’re hoping more (veterans) will come to Marietta if they see there’s a place for them here.”