TU prof seeks $300M to aid vets

A Tiffin University chemistry professor is proposing a $300 million project to help lower the veteran suicide rate and aid veterans returning to college.

John Schupp is to travel to Washington D.C. to talk to Congress members today through Friday about creating a grant to 1,000 colleges nationwide for $300,000 each.

He plans to work with Military Fellows, interns who work with congressional members for one year. The fellows must work on a project and Schupp said he hopes to “tap into the Military Fellows and have them work together on this one project.”

Schupp’s project – Veterans, Service-members and Students Engaged in Leadership – would be a grant that is to cover three academic years.

The money is to be used to create veteran resource centers that would give student veterans a place to gather and discuss their past and future with other veterans, Schupp said.

“The grant that I am proposing does more than just ensure the success of the student veteran and service-member. It encourages the campus that receives the grant to create programs where civilians and student veterans to work together on service projects for the campus community,” Schupp said. “I want to help the civilian students to take advantage of everything that these student veterans and service-members have brought back from their time of service.”

Schupp hopes the centers help to lower the veteran suicide rate.

In 2012, 349 active-duty service members committed suicide, he said.

“Throughout the history of this country, whenever we embrace an era of veterans, the country moves forward successfully such as during the Civil War and Industrial Revolution,” Schupp said.

“But when we don’t as in WWI into the Great Depression, we flounder.”

Schupp said that after evaluating 70 variables, the most common factor in lower suicide rates from WWI to WWII was the GI Bill, which helped veterans attend college.

“Many of the WWII veterans were able to discuss the impact of the war and the excitement of coming back home to a new life with fellow veterans on a daily basis during the four-year period in colleges,” Schupp said. “After this ‘four-year’ therapy, the (veterans) were adjusted and at a lower risk for suicide.”

“If the first attempted suicide rate were to decrease by 50 percent because of the centers, we could expect 46,900 student veterans nationwide to not attempt suicide, and save the Veteran’s Affairs $403 million, allowing the grant to be budget negative, versus budget neutral,” he said.

There are about 160 student veterans enrolled at Tiffin University and about 80 full-time faculty who are veterans, Charles Christensen, vice president for academic affairs, said.

Christensen retired in 1993 as an Air Force colonel. He enlisted into the military in 1967 and spent one year deployed in Vietnam. Christensen is to lend his experiences to Schupp as an example of his successes from his time in an unpopular war and how the military experiences helped him succeed, and to give hope to this generation’s veterans.

“The military taught me two important skills, technical skills and leadership,” Christensen said. “Leadership is about people. Without the military, you take away the ability to lead. We had the mentality of being part of a team, and coming home most didn’t have that.”