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Combat veterans finding educational, healthcare, and family benefits through
ASU's Beck PRIDE Center

July 16, 2009  --  J.B.’s pursuit of an athletic career was interrupted when he suffered combat injuries while serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army. While in rehabilitation at Brooks Army Medical Center, his wife and his case manager encouraged him to pursue his goal of becoming a college football coach.

While researching his options, he learned about a new program at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro that offers services to help injured veterans complete a college education.

“I did the homework and footwork to find out if Arkansas State was the best option for my family because it meant relocating my wife and small children from Arizona,” J. B. told the Beck PRIDE Center staff at ASU.

Despite the move and associated adjustments for him and his family, he looks back a year later with a positive outlook about the challenges he met and faced, saying “ . . .it is a challenge that I would recommend any veteran to take on who has a goal where you need higher education to achieve it. Every college should have a program on its campus that supports student-veterans, like the Beck PRIDE Center.”

J. B. (full name withheld for privacy) is just one of approximately 130 veterans who are or have been clients of the Beck Center during its first 18 months of operation at Arkansas State University.

The needs of thousands of combat veterans like J. B. are what inspired concept founders Buddy and Charlotte Beck of Fairfax Station, Va., to provide initial funding for a center that could provide unmet veterans’ needs in a university setting. Their dream is coming true through the Beck PRIDE Center at the couple’s alma mater.

When the Becks first discussed their idea in 2007 with Chancellor Robert L. Potts at ASU-Jonesboro, they described veterans’ needs that were not being met through conventional military sources. As conversations progressed with Dr. Potts and other university officials, a plan for a center that would provide for Personal Rehabilitation, Individual Development and Education (PRIDE) began to develop.

When the center was established, the Becks commented,
"We are thrilled with the way Arkansas State University is making our vision a reality through the work of the Beck PRIDE Center. Arkansas State University has meant so much to both of us over the years. This was one way we could show our appreciation in a tangible way that will also benefit those who have sacrificed in service to our great country."

Through a very generous gift to the university, the Becks provided the initial funding to launch the Beck PRIDE Center, with aspirations of turning the center into a model that could be replicated at universities throughout the country.  ASUJ took a major step in this direction by co-sponsoring the State of Arkansas Veterans Symposium for Higher Education, conducted by Gov. Mike Beebe’s Yellow Ribbon Task Force, on best practices for serving veterans on campus.  Personnel from colleges and universities throughout the state attended the Boots 2 Books conference, June 24-25 in Little Rock.

Personnel from all branches of the military are eligible to receive services. The center, housed in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, has attracted veterans from a multi-state region.

Additionally, counseling and other services will be available for veterans' family members. "The college campus is a perfect place to host this type of program and ASU-Jonesboro is well suited for it," Potts has noted. “We are so grateful for the Becks’ generosity and their visionary ambition to serve those who have served to protect our country’s freedom.”

Beck PRIDE Center Mission and Objectives

The Beck PRIDE Center’s mission is to provide combat-wounded veterans with first class educational programs and important re-integration services to help prepare them for post-service careers. Some of those services include:

-- Access to the higher education experience;

            -- Resources for counseling and treatment for mental health issues;

            -- Physical rehabilitation

            -- Advocacy and mentoring

            -- Resources for financial assistance

            -- Social enrichment, networking and community service opportunities.

Program participants have access to career counseling, skills or placement testing, and an academic advisor to assist with the development of a plan of study. Services are designed to supplement, not duplicate, federal and state government resources.

Susan Tonymon, Beck Center director, explained, “This program is unique in that it provides individual attention and ‘one-stop shopping’ for the injured veteran and his or her family in a nurturing environment where one counselor works with each veteran to address or obtain assistance on all issues facing the veteran or family.”

The clients who praise the center are helping contribute to the development of its national reputation as one of the top military-friendly campuses in the country.

In fact, in late 2008, the Wal-Mart Foundation identified ASU-Jonesboro as one of the top 10 universities in the country for best practices in programs for student-veteran education programs and services. The designation came with a $100,000 grant to further support the Beck Center’s goals.

The chairman of the Beck PRIDE Center’s National Advisory Board, Maj. Gen. Elder Granger, also is an ASU alumnus and is retiring as deputy director and chief operating officer of TRICARE Management Activity. At the time of the center’s founding, he commented, "Every generation has produced a group of patriots willing to serve a cause greater than themselves. The PRIDE program validates the gratitude of a nation for serving Americans and this group of patriots."

Adjusting to Life after Battle

Every veteran who comes to the PRIDE Center has unique personal circumstances and individual needs. E4 Specialist Julio Mendoza, who served as a combat medic with the 875th Engineer Battalion, is back home in the U.S. and majoring in nursing at ASU. He described one of his challenges, readjusting to life in a calmer environment after serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 “You’re still amped, you’re still energized, and it’s very difficult to realize that you no longer need to be afraid,” Mendoza said. The Beck Center has helped make the adjustment easier by giving him step by step guidance to receive the assistance that he needed for successful transition.

Because the Beck PRIDE Center serves both active duty and discharged combat veterans, Tonymon explained a special benefit to those still on active duty.

“People are sometimes worried about information ending up in their service record and subsequently having an adverse effect on them or their family or their military status,” she explained. Other than mandatory reporting requirements covering situations like threats to harm oneself or others, domestic violence or child abuse, information collected at the
PRIDE Center is “private and confidential.”

National Advisory Council Members

Members of the Beck PRIDE Center National Advisory Council are Maj. Gen. Elder Granger, chairman, Maj. Gen. William Wofford, Maj. Gen. George Barker, Maj. Gen. George Simmons, Brig. Gen. Thomas Davis, Brig. Gen. Jimmy Norris, LTG(R) Theodore G. Stroup Jr., Col. Jerry Bowen (Ret.), Mrs. Charlotte Beck, Mrs. Rosalie Barber, Mr. David Olive, Mr. George Westmoreland, and Mr. Thom Welborn.

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University, founded in 1909, offers associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist’s and doctoral degree programs through its academic colleges: Agriculture and Technology, Business, Communications, Education, Engineering, Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Nursing and Health Professions, Science and Mathematics, and University College. Courses also are offered through The Honors College and the independent Department of Military Science.

Graduate and undergraduate enrollment at ASU-Jonesboro was 11,490 in the fall of 2008. Jonesboro is a city of approximately 60,000 residents and serves as an educational, medical and retail center in Northeast Arkansas. 

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Online references:

Beck PRIDE Center:

Announcement of grant from Wal-Mart:  

Announcement of Beck gift:

Susan Tonymon’s appointment to Governor’s Yellow Ribbon Task Force:


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