Air Force veteran Kate Fox marched 11 miles this Veterans Day (11-11-16), setting out before dawn to symbolize the darkness that leads 22 veterans to commit suicide each day in the United States.
“While I was on the road alone, I had the spirit of my brothers and sisters in arms guiding me,” the Penn State Abington student said. “The fact that we are losing people who have already sacrificed so much is simply unacceptable.”
Fox made her own sacrifices serving her country. She enlisted after 9/11 and was stationed in Illinois and the Pentagon working in global computer command and control running mapping and tracking systems.
She then took assignments overseas as a civilian defense contractor for the Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan and off the coast of Libya.
“Afghanistan was horrible and stressful,” Fox said softly.
After 14 years with the Air Force and Marines, she returned to her hometown a year ago and promptly enrolled at Abington to earn a bachelor's degree in rehabilitation and human services.
“I’ve always had a very service-oriented sense of self,” Fox said of her choice of major and military career. “In my family, I was always the fixer, the bleeding heart, the caregiver of everybody.”
Fox had earned about half of the credits toward her degree before and during her military service, and the enrollment process was smooth.
"I called and said, 'I'm Kate and I'm a veteran,' and they immediately put me in touch with the right person," she laughed.
The transition back into college was harder, but Fox isn't alone. More than 100 veterans are enrolled at Abington, and the college has numerous supports in place for them such as the Student Veterans Organization. Just 48 hours before her Veterans Day march, Fox was elected president of the group, which is open to anyone in the campus community.
“Veterans have a lot of experiences that not many people share,” Fox, who plans to donate almost $1,000 she raised during her 11-mile march to a veterans support group, explained. "You've seen things that no one should be exposed to. It makes you more well rounded, and you learn to connect with people even when you disagree.”
Penn State Abington serves as a haven for vets and their families, who find support inside and outside the classroom.
- The Student Veterans Organization, a peer-to-peer network, creates bonds with the campus community and coordinates activities. It is open to any faculty, staff and students whether they served in the military or not.
- Veterans, active duty military, and ROTC members have their own study lounge.
- An initiative developed and adopted at Abington led to a state law making veterans enrolled in all Pennsylvania state colleges and universities eligible for priority registration.
- Multiple Abington staff members are certified or trained in Veterans Administration policies so eligible students may make the most of their education benefits.
- An independent organization last week announced Abington earned the military-friendly designation for the fifth time.
Penn State Abington, formerly the Ogontz campus, offers baccalaureate degrees in 18 majors at its suburban location just north of Philadelphia. Nearly half of our 4,000 students complete all four years at Abington, with opportunities in undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more. The Lion’s Gate residence hall will open in August 2017.