COM Veterans Club provides camaraderie, guidance

Posted on: February 03, 2012

Texas City native Ruben Garcia served as a combat medic in the United States Army
from 2001-09, including 18 months in Iraq.
When he enrolled at College of the Mainland in the fall of 2009, he began planning a
veterans club to provide guidance and camaraderie to fellow military personnel
returning from war.
With the help of COM science professor Tracy Orr, Garcia, 31, started the COM
Veterans Club.
“The veterans organization saved my life,” Garcia said. “It gave me somewhere to
feel safe and it let me meet other brothers-in-arms that had been through the same
thing. I can look in somebody else’s eyes and know what they’ve been through
without even talking.”
Orr, who served in the United States Air Force from 1983-1991, was honored to be
the club’s faculty advisor.
“We do as much as we can to help them out,” Orr said. “We make veterans aware of
 the benefits. A lot of times when they come back they don’t know what they’re
 eligible for.”
Club historian Chris Willhelm served in the U.S. Navy submarine units from 2004-
09. He grew up in San Diego but decided to attend COM because his family lives in
 the area.
Willhelm, an art major who’s focused on visual design and photography, takes
 pictures of the club’s events.
“I think I get more out of (the club) from helping out people in the group,” Willhelm
 said. “If a problem comes up, I know they’ll do the same for me.”
G.I. Jobs Magazine selected COM as a military-friendly school last year, and the club
is a major part of the support network for veterans on campus.
Dr. Bob Sindylek, a retired U.S. Marine and a licensed counselor supervisor from
League City, meets with the group every Tuesday to assist with transitioning to civilian life on Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m. in the Public Service Careers Building, Room 116. For more information, contact Derick Hutchinson at 409-933-8156. Among the topics discussed is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Veterans groups such as the Wounded Warrior Project, VFW, Marine Corps League
and the American Legion meet with COM veterans during the Tuesday meetings.
The club participated in a local Toys for Tots campaign and will be involved in
providing bracelets for Breast Cancer survivors with Relay for Life.
“We’re community service-based,” Garcia said. “We’re keeping veterans on the
forefront. We want to empower them and give them the tools to be successful in the
Garcia is on schedule to earn his associate in general studies this semester and an
associate in science degree next semester. His long term plans include becoming a
“I’ve met some really great professors here,” Garcia said. “I’ve been impressed with
 the caliber of instructors and professors we have here.”

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