A chance to network with fellow veterans, a chance to access services, and a chance to enjoy some free pizza all were in play Thursday evening as Chippewa Valley Technical College hosted its semiannual Veterans Reception at the Business Education Center in Eau Claire.
Dan Stafford, one of the more than 230 veterans enrolled at CVTC, was among those attending Thursday’s event.
“I’m a veteran, and I like to mingle with veterans,” said Stafford, who is in his first year in the Industrial Mechanics program at CVTC. “And I thought I might learn something too.”
Deb Ludwikowski, CVTC’s veterans certifying official, said that’s exactly the purpose of the Veterans Reception, which is held during the second week of classes each spring and fall semester.
“This event helps to acquaint veterans with other veterans. It gives them a chance to talk with people who are interested in similar issues,” Ludwikowski said. “And it gives them information about the services available to them.”
Representatives of CVTC’s Diversity Services, Disability Resources, and Counseling offices were on hand. Veterans also could receive information about a variety of off-campus resources, including the V.A. Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the state Department of Workforce Development’s Office of Veteran Services.
Stafford, a Lake Wissota resident, retired last August after having served in the Army Reserves since 1987. Before that he had been a member of the Army National Guard for seven years. He currently serves as commander of VFW Post 1038 in Chippewa Falls.
Stafford served a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2004-2005, at the same time his son Jacob was serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. Military service is commonplace in his family, Stafford said. “We believe in supporting our country, doing our part,” he said.
Stafford enrolled at CVTC last fall after retiring from his job as a mechanic with Area Maintenance Support Activity 155G, a Department of Defense agency that provides services to local military installations. He had worked for the agency since returning home from Afghanistan in 2005.
Stafford, who recently turned 60, first attended college in 1972, enrolling in the Service Station Management program at what was then known as District One Technical Institute. “But I was young and that didn’t last very long” he said, laughing. “I’m a little more studious now. I screwed up a bit the last time.”
Stafford attended Thursday’s Open House with his son Isaac, a student in the Civil-Structural Engineering program at CVTC who also is treasurer of the college’s Student Government Association.