Weatherford College has much to be proud about, and at the top of that list is a strong partnership with veterans which can be found throughout the institution’s history.
From housing returning World War II soldiers on campus in the Lanham Trailer Colony to scouting for Vietnam veterans to attend classes, WC has a long history of providing services to military students.
Forty-one years ago, Director of Admissions Ralph Willingham was hired on at WC to take care of veterans’ needs. The following year, Willingham and others hosted a Veterans Day ceremony, a tradition that continues today.
“We had a program back in 1974 to honor the Vietnam veteran wives of those missing in action,” Willingham said. “We had it out in the circle which was simply a grassy area then. We invited a B-52 pilot to speak, and the Air Force band from Wichita Falls came to play. We had helicopters adjacent to where the baseball field is now, and elementary schools brought their kids to see them.”
The annual ceremony is now held at Veterans Memorial Flag Plaza next to the Academic Building. The college also participates in the Weatherford Veterans’ Day Parade.
As part of this year’s Veterans Day activities, the college will pay homage to the life and sacrifice of 1st Lt. Jack L. Knight. The Board of Trustees recently named the former Allied Health Building in honor of the alumnus, the only WC graduate known to have received the Medal of Honor.
But Weatherford College does more than honor local veterans on national holidays. The college provides a litany of services for veterans looking to further their education which has helped Weatherford College earn the Military Advanced Friendly College and Universities Award and the Military Friendly Schools Award as designated by G.I. Jobs Magazine from 2011 to 2014
Currently, WC, working with the Veterans Administration, a Parker County Veterans Officer and other organizations, assists veterans in a number of ways including:• Allowing all veterans to register for classes during Early Bird Registration, which is usually only for students who have completed 40 semester hours;
• Textbook donations to help veterans while they wait on book allowance money from the VA;
• Résumé building assistance at the WC Transfer and Career Center;
• Legal services as arranged by the VA to assist veterans;
• Assistance with updating DD-214 forms (a service provided by John Hale, a Parker County Veterans Services Officer);
• Evaluation of Joint Services Transcripts and credit applied to WC transcripts where applicable;
• A newly-created Facebook page for WC Veterans;
• Issuing red, white and blue honor cords for veterans to wear at graduation;
• Free reserve seating at home basketball and baseball games.
A WC Veterans Center is also in the planning stages. This center would provide veterans a place of their own on campus where they could receive support and assistance as they transition into college life. It would also provide them a connection point with fellow veterans.
The services provided to veterans have evolved over the years and will continue to do so to meet the needs of veteran students and their family members attending classes under the GI Bill and the Hazlewood Act. Currently, there are about 240 students attending WC with the help of these programs.
While this number has grown in recent years, it comes nowhere close to the post-Vietnam era when about 500 veterans attended WC which had a student population of just under 1,000 at the time.
“That’s the most we’ve ever had,” Willingham said, adding that those were veterans and eligible dependents of disabled veterans. “For many, many years we didn’t get over 90 veterans. We had only about 10 Hazlewood students, and we now have more than 100 because of being able to transfer those benefits.”
Service men and women who entered the armed forces after 9/11 who meet a few other requirements are allowed to transfer their education benefits to their children or spouse. That includes tuition and fees, books and housing.
As more veterans are educated on the benefits available to them the number of veteran students has increased and will continue this trend for a few more years.
For more on veteran programs at Weatherford College, visit wc.edu/admissions/veterans.