Mary K. Talbot
Rachael Garcia, associate director of veterans affairs and military programs at the University of Rhode Island, has been named Veteran of the Year 2021 by the Providence, VA regional office. Garcia was honored for her advocacy for other veterans and volunteering in the community. The award was presented in a virtual ceremony that was attended by more than 250 people last month.
Garcia, 35, of Warwick, is a U.S. Air Force veteran. Her three-year military service includes both overseas and domestic operations. She provided assistance during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was a member of the Air Force Security Forces in Iraq the following year.
After receiving recognition from the VA Regional Office, Garcia hopes the award will “Help Women Become Less Invisible” by drawing attention to their military service and contributions to the veteran community.
As assistant director of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs, Garcia says it is her job to make sure “people get the most out of them” while supporting the faculty and staff who are veterans on campus. According to the university, Garcia serves as a resource for new and aspiring students to understand VA and military benefits, GI Bill certification, financial assistance and scholarships, and more. Importantly, the office provides a way to connect the URI veteran and military communities with one another and with the programs and support – both on campus and off campus – that help them thrive.
“Rachael has been instrumental in helping many of our students feel welcome and supported as they begin their academic careers or return to higher education,” said Kathy M. Collins, URI vice president of student affairs, of Garcia’s contributions to campus .
In addition to her full-time position, Garcia volunteers an estimated “35 to 40 hours per week” as a VFW service representative filing claims related to the service and assisting members and their spouses. Garcia is a tireless volunteer who also speaks for veterans and their families by advocating policy change at the local, state, and federal levels. She humbly says that she is trying to “be a voice for service members and veterans just confused and frustrated with the system”.
Garcia takes time to listen to the veterans she meets both at work at URI and as volunteers at VFW. These personal connections are the most rewarding aspect of any day. “I love just sitting with people and hearing their stories,” she says.
A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Garcia earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology with a minor in African American literature. She also holds a Masters degree from Portland State University, where she focused her academic studies on learning trauma recovery.
Commenting on Garcia as a recipient of the Woman of the Year 2021 award, Kasim Yarn, director of the Rhode Island Veterans Services Office, said: “Rachael represents qualities we find in the best of leaders: integrity, commitment to others, and loyalty to their team. “
Do you know a living veteran willing to share their story? Do you offer a program or service that focuses on retired military service? Are you planning veterans or their families? Email information to Mary K. Talbot at [email protected]
All sessions are face-to-face unless otherwise noted. Please wear masks and practice social distancing.
◘ May 12, VA New England Women Veterans (virtual) Forum, 6:00 p.m. City Hall format to get information on available programs and share views on strengths and challenges of existing initiatives Pre-registration is required to participate. Go to: https://veteransaffairs.webex.com/veteransaffairs/k2/j.php?MTID=t468202430619fa5fa8742264168eb8a5
◘ May 12, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 273 Regular Meeting, 12 noon, Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post, 1418 Plainfield Pike, Cranston.
◘ May 13, (Virtual) Operations Stand Down RI Mortgage Seminar with Kevin Hurteau providing VA home loan expertise through Zoom from 10am to 11am. Call (401) 383-4730 to register and receive the link to participate.
◘ May 13, DAV Chapter 21 meeting, monthly meeting, 7 p.m., Dillon Council, 1675 Douglas Ave., North Providence.
◘ June 5, veteran saltwater fly fishing, all skills are welcomed. Instructed by DEM’s Aquatic Resource Education Office and operated in conjunction with Dare to Dream Ranch. The event will take place on the Narrow River in South Kingstown from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Rods will be provided and some waders will be available. For more information, contact Cyndi at (401) 871-2322.
◘ Follow up to a Veterans Voice column published September 3, 2020: The University of Rhode Island is seeking feedback and suggestions from the community to help determine the future of folk art murals of life in the GI Bill era of the 1950s who have favourited at School Memorial Union To view the murals and read the background, visit: https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/2020/09/03/veterans-voice-uri-considers-removing-murals-painted-by-vet-in-1950s/42511133/. Community members are encouraged to send their comments and suggestions to [email protected] Until May 16. According to the university, a committee will carefully review the comments and suggestions before reporting back to university management at the end of May.
◘ The application deadline for the annual VVA Chapter 273 scholarship is now open. Earning high school graduates preparing for a career tech school, junior college, or four-year degree may apply with sponsorship from a member of VVA Chapter 273. For more information, please contact Howard “Butch” Turner at popturn50 @ hotmail. com.