Michael Rutledge, veteran resource representative at NMU, was recently honored for his exemplary service with a Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency coin presented by MVAA director Jeff Barnes. Rutledge provides services to veterans and their family members, on campus and throughout the Upper Peninsula, and connects them to relevant resources.
One example of “going above and beyond the call of duty” referenced in his nomination letter involved a Vietnam veteran and his wife. Their township informed them that they owed $2,000 in property tax on their home, despite an exemption the previous year based on the veteran’s status as 100 percent disabled and on low, fixed income. The couple had not received the annual statement of disability from the Veterans Administration and did not know how to proceed. The man’s wife called Rutledge for guidance after seeing an article on his appointment at NMU.
Rutledge called a Veteran Service Officer he had met in training to obtain the statement. By 9 a.m., he had faxed it to the township clerk, prompting a call to the couple that the tax was indeed exempt. “Although this was a simple fix, they couple was extremely happy and relieved, as they were frightened by the large bill,” the nomination letter reads. “This is an excellent example of the MVAA’s no wrong door policy.”
Community outreach also contributed to Rutledge receiving the MVAA coin. He worked with the Iron Mountain VA to host a Veteran Town Hall event at NMU, which drew 42 community members and Congressman Dan Benishek. He serves on Benishek’s U.P. veteran advisory council. Rutledge attends monthly meetings of the Marquette County Veterans Alliance at the Jacobetti Home for Veterans, allowing extra time so his service dog can interact with patients. Rutledge also is collaborating with the Jacobetti Home to have its residents join NMU student veterans at community and sporting events, with the students providing assistance, as needed. And he worked with an NMU education student, student veteran volunteers and local school children to make cards and care packages for an Army unit serving overseas.
In addition to the MVAA coin presentation, Rutledge’s service dog, Welles, received an MVAA lapel pin. His former service dog, Onyx, was honored in remembrance.