Braatz named vet student point of contact

By Troy Neumann

Lumen Reporter

     “One of the things we did as leaders in the military was help when a problem arises,” said Mark Braatz, 51, Viterbo’s new Veteran Student Point of Contact as of the 2011-2012 school year.

This father and Army sergeant major of 27 years and retiree has recently come in to Viterbo’s newly established position to help the veterans on campus make a transition from the military to the life as civilian students.  Being a veteran of many conflicts from the Cold War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Braatz is capable of an empathy a veteran can show towards other veterans.  With training ranging from that of a tank crewman to a drill sergeant, Braatz knows what a team needs to function properly.

“One of the more impactful things I can do is to show empathy when talking with the veterans,” Braatz said.

Helping with the veterans on campus is only a beginning for Braatz, however.  With his major in business education, he hopes to become a teacher in Sparta, Wis., where he is currently living with his family.  If he is unable to obtain a position there, he is willing to move across the seas and teach in English schools in other countries if need be.

As a point of contact, many veterans on campus can use the connections Braatz has established throughout the surrounding community.  Braatz can point veterans in the direction of nearly any department they may need.  He can help to obtain a veteran’s medical records, straighten issues concerning financial aid and help find counseling.

With this being Viterbo’s first attempt at a Veterans’ Student Point of Contact, it is Braatz’s hope that Viterbo will continue with the position as there are some things that only someone who has also been through the military can truly help with.

There is a higher likelihood of continuing the position if more veterans use the program, Braatz said.

One of the most difficult things he and his family have had to adapt to is the change from a highly structured, military life to that of a more lenient civilian life style, said Braatz.  To make this transition harder, the loss of the closeness within the military has also proven to be quite an obstacle for Braatz and his wife.

Braatz is busy on a weekly basis, even though he only sees a couple of veterans a week.  Many times he is busy in the community establishing more connections to further help the veterans on campus and to better learn how he can assist them.

Viterbo’s assistant director of Financial Aid, Dawn Mazzola, was one of the closest points of contact before Braatz’s position was created. But, Mazzola’s lack of a military background has proven to be a complication in the past, said Mazzola.  Being a point of contact for the financial issues that may arise, Mazzola was less likely to know all of the different benefits a veteran may be able to obtain through various means.

“Many, if not most, campuses have a central point for their veterans, not just for educaton financial issues, but for other civilian issues as well,” said Mazzola, and this is what Braatz is attempting to be.

With the many connections Braatz has developed in his time here he can help with these other issues, ranging from necessary medical attention to assistance with loans for housing, said Braatz.

Kris Aspenson, a senior criminal justice major and former Reserves Officer Training Course cadet from Viroqua, Wis., said that a veteran has necessities that may be required to be fulfilled before the full student experience can take place.

“It is when these other necessities are met that a veteran can truly make a full transition,” Aspenson said.

“Having met Mr. Braatz around campus, I have come to realize that he is capable of assisting the veterans more than others would believe,” said Aspenson.  “His experiences allow him to maintain necessary connections for a useful veteran’s contact point.”

It is with these experiences and connections that Braatz is able to remain as useful as he has been to the veterans. He hopes to further his usefulness by becoming more well- known as a good initial contact for any issues that may arise for a veteran.

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