Caption: Veteran Ron Gallegos presents Northern President Nancy “Rusty” Barceló with a New Mexico Flag that has been flown in Iraq and Washington D.C. during the inauguration ceremony for the University’s Veterans Resource Center.
Resource Center Gives Veterans a Hand Up
Submitted by Stephanie J. Montoya for Northern New Mexico University
ESPANOLA – The New Mexican flag sitting in Northern’s new Veteran’s Resource Center has come a long way, from flying in Iraq to waving over the nation’s Capital.
The Center’s coordinator Ron Gallegos brought the flag back from his last tour in Iraq, the most recent part of more than 30 years of military service in the Marine Corps.
Gallegos knows about veterans. A Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, he has served in the Philippines, in Operation Desert Storm, and two full tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says the Center is key in helping veterans and their families get back to school and back to work.
“There’s not much information out there. Veterans have to do a lot on their own without a resource like this,” Gallegos said. “Without these benefits, many veterans and their families wouldn’t even be able to come to college.”
The VRC serves both Northern students and the community at large and connects clients to the services they need. For students, this means academic and advisement support as well as financial aid, but the center also offers information about everything from rehabilitation therapy and health care to job placement and small business loans.
The center was established thanks to a bill passed by the state legislature last year providing $125,000 in funding. Northern currently serves more than 80 student veterans and dependents and there are upwards of 2,600 in Rio Arriba County alone.
New Mexico is also home to one of the largest proportions of Native American and Hispanic Veterans in the nation.
In addition to linking community members with services, Gallegos says that the center is a welcoming place where veterans can come to study, to ask for help or just to talk with someone who has been in their shoes.
“The greatest reward is just being able to offer support,” he said. “I’ve been there, and I know how much it’s appreciated.”
The Veteran’s Resource Center is located in AD and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (505) 747-5499 for more information or visit www.nnmc.edu.