Association created for Veterans at WCU

Western Carolina University caters to many types of students. There is the traditional student that entered college from high school and then there are those that entered the workforce and then enrolled in college, but in the midst of those individuals, is a special kind of university student, a student veteran.

WCU prides itself on embracing its veterans. According to Briana Ford, certifying officer at Military Student Services on campus, there are over 350 military affiliated students attending WCU this semester. Military affiliated refers to the student who is a veteran, currently serving on active duty, reservist or military dependent.

Military Student Services, located at 138 Cordelia Camp, exists to assist the military student with any issues they may have, from financial to transitional.  According to G.I. Jobs Magazine, Western Carolina University was named a top 100 military friendly school for the last four years. The magazine bases its ranking  from over 12,000 schools and bestows the honor on only the top 15 percent of schools in the nation that offer the best educational experience for  veterans and military members. The ranking is based on military support, academics and financial benefits. WCU currently waives the application fee and offers priority registration for veterans.

Because of the needs of these students, a Student Veteran Association was formed on campus. Currently, there are 10 members in the association but J.D. Arch, president of SVA, is hoping to get the word out about the association and recruit more members.

J.D. Arch during his time on active duty in the US Navy. Photo provided by J.D. Arch.

Arch served 20 years in the US Navy as a Trident Submarine sailor.  He followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Navy in 1990. Arch is currently a member of the honors college and is pursuing degrees in management, communications and public relations. Next year, Arch will travel to the Netherlands to study abroad and earn a degree in International business.

“I love to meet people. I invest in people,” said Arch.

When asked if he felt that his military service has helped him in college he was unsure.

“I don’t think every veteran gets a leg up in school. I am just a driven person but I do feel that my life experience has helped me,” said Arch.

Ian Williams, a member of the SVA and a former Marine, feels that he has benefited from his service.

“I used the Marines as a stepping stone,” said Williams. “I do feel that the Marine Corps and my age have given me the ability to discipline myself in school.”

After serving eight years and two tours of duty in Iraq, Williams is pursuing a degree in Engineering at WCU. He felt that after being a recruiter for the Marine Corps for his last two years of active duty, he was able to transition easier into civilian life and campus life.

A self professed nerd, Williams said “I was excited to get back into the books.”

Williams, a graduate of Tuscola High School in Waynesville, enjoys being a part of the SVA.

Ian Williams, former Marine and member of Student Vteran Association at WCU. Photo by Heather Mason

“It is fun when you are around people that talk the same language as you do. They understand what you have been through,” said Williams.

Arch feels that the membership in the Association is low “because Veterans understand the bureaucracy of the military and they think that is what the association is all about but it’s not.”

With so many changes in the military, there are always topics for discussion in the SVA. With the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” regarding homosexuality in the military and the issue of women in combat, Arch and Williams had similar opinions.

“I don’t really care as long as everyone is professional and does their job,” said Williams.

Arch worked with women on submarines and admits that facilities were an issue.

“There are only two heads (bathrooms) on the sub and they would secure one for the females. It was a huge inconvenience,” said Arch but he agreed that he didn’t care who he served with as long as they worked hard.

As president of SVA, Arch has big plans for the Association. Arch is currently working to gain approval from the university for a red, white and blue honor cord to be worn by all veterans during graduation. The cord would signify their service to the country. Another project currently in the planning stage is to take a wasted median in the parking lot in front of the Military Service Center and create an area to honor and display the American Flag and the flags of all branches of service.

The Student Veteran Association meets the first Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. in the Military Service Building. All military affiliated students are invited to attend. For more information on the Military Service Center, call (828)-227-2135 or go to