Student veterans, school officials and organization representatives were all smiles Monday for the dedication of the first Battle Buddy Center in Queens.
The center’s ceremony was held at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, where student veterans expressed their appreciation for its creation.
Kevin Chimilio, a student at LaGuardia Community College and president of the LaGuardia Community College Veterans Club, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years and is now studying psychology.
He said the space will be a “home base” for returning veterans, adding he wasn’t up for college fresh out of high school.
“A lot of veterans come home and they feel like they don’t know where they can go to,” Chimilio said. “This program will institute something that will be beneficial to all of us, give us a place where you can go, say ‘hey, you can come here, this is for you.’”
Ricky Malone, vice president of the club, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard for four years and who is studying political science, spoke on navigating the admissions process.
“Coming out of the military I’m used to such a disciplined regimen,” Malone said. “You know exactly where to go to get what you need ... not knowing how to go about any of this was very difficult and frustrating.”
Stephen Clark, veterans service director at LaGuardia Community College, said an academic adviser was recently hired for the college’s Office for Veteran Affairs.
That person can assist student veterans in understanding educational procedures, such as equating a veteran’s benefits to the amount of time allotted with the GI Bill.
Through the center, which will serve as a safe haven for veterans, the office will provide assistance for more than 350 veterans in transitioning to academic life from military life and career assistance — and eventually into a career path.
The nonprofit New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. dedicated the center, with a $20,000 check, in collaboration with its member agency Goodwill Industries of New York and Northern New Jersey.