A new veterans resource representative is stationed at Northern Michigan University to help individuals on campus and in the community take advantage of all benefits available to them due to their military service.
Mike Rutledge spent 22 years as a field artillery noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army. After retirement, he taught at a high school and community college. Now he is combining his veteran’s perspective and educational background in a position funded equally by NMU and a grant administered by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. He is one of twelve resource representatives based at institutions of higher learning throughout the state.
“When I got out of the Army, I had no idea what benefits I was eligible for until I met with a counselor,” Rutledge said. “I want area vets to know I’m here and ready to help. The benefits can range from education to health care to home loans. I can help people complete the required paperwork and point them to other resources, as needed. Even if a vet just wants to sit in my office and swap stories, that’s fine, too.”
Rutledge said there are about 300 self-reported veteran students at Northern, which has been designated a military-friendly school by Victory Media for six consecutive years. He will work closely with the financial aid office to facilitate their access to education benefits such as the Post-911 Bill and the Montgomery Bill.
“Money is available, but there’s an alarmingly low number of vets using education benefits,” Rutledge said. “The Michigan College Access Network has set a goal that 60 percent of state residents will have some type of higher education credential by 2025. Veterans will factor into that effort. I’ll be able to build on the good job Northern has already done by offering a more direct connection to veteran students and possibly getting more to come here. I can also educate faculty and staff on dealing more effectively with this group of students. But my services will reach beyond campus to veterans in the community.”
Those who visit Rutledge in his office in 2607 Hedgcock will also meet his service dog, Onyx. The black lab mix is a former dock-jumping competitor and also holds an honorary master’s degree.
Rutledge can be reached at 227-1402 or firstname.lastname@example.org.