FROSTBURG — Dozens of veterans and their families along with residents, local officials and university staff gathered at the Frostburg State University Veterans Center for a dedication ceremony Saturday to celebrate community and brotherhood.
"These are our heroes," District 1C Del. Mike McKay said. "This community and the center are the guides to help our heroes. Given their time and attention for our counrty, they're the heroes and we can guide them to become successful in the next chapter of their lives."
The center, located at 150 Park St. adjacent to the university, offers a full time staff ready to assist those returning from service with the enrollment process as well as answer questions on how to access veterans benefits such as the GI Bill, and other VA benefits.
Danielle Dabrowski, director of Veterans Services at FSU, said helping veterans with their benefit packages is more than a job.
After having family in the military, Dabrowski dedicates her life to providing service members with the critical information needed to secure collegiate prosperity.
"There's a lot of (students) that I talk to that are not made aware of what their entitlements truly are," Dabrowski said.
After serving in the United States Army from 1970-1976, Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine agrees it can be tough for veterans to gain access to critical information as they arrivive home from the military. Valentine said the center can fill this gap.
"Whenever you get your discharge papers, it's 'thanks, see ya, bye,' and so it's totally up to the veterans to dig in," Valentine said. "Right now, the closest VA Center for this area is Martinsburg (West Virginia). Even people that need medical help have to go to Martinsburg ... ."
With more than 500 additional square feet than the previous campus location, the center can offer more than just benefits guidance. With a kitchen, lounge and computer lab, Marine Kodi Bowers, president of the FSU Student Veterans Association, said the space provides a community.
"When I first started coming here, we didn't have anywhere for veterans to go," Bowers said. "(FSU) had a little tiny office that didn't have a lounge or anything like that."
Bowers, 31, said she "spent a lot of time in my car because I didn't know anybody and I didn't care to know anybody."
FSU President Ron Nowaczyk and FSU Professor Emeritus John Bambacus also delivered remarks. The Posting of Colors was conducted by American Legion Farrady Post 24. Marse Romero sung the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Jeff Graham, FSU assistant vice president for student affairs.
Follow staff writer Heather Wolford on Twitter @heatherbwolford.