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Source: Thomas Reust, tomreust@k-state.edu
Pronouncer: Noortje is NO-rah-cha; Reust is roost
Photos available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-6415.
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415, khodges2@k-state.edu

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009

For Veterans Day 2009:
MILITARY VETERANS FIND THEIR NICHES AT K-STATE WHILE PURSUING HIGHER EDUCATION; ONE STUDENT ORGANIZES MILITARY VETERANS SUPPORT GROUP

MANHATTAN -- Thomas Reust, a junior in mass communications from Allen, started his education at Kansas State University after 14 years in the U.S. Army as a logistics specialist, serving his last tour in Iraq.

When arriving at K-State, Reust said he was apprehensive as to how he would be perceived by other K-State students as both a nontraditional student and as a veteran.

"The common thought is that there is a stigma against the military in the college community," Reust said. "As I looked around, however, I saw some telltale haircuts in the class. I was relieved to find that other veterans were there, and they provided a sounding board to help me through my initial semester."

According to K-State's office of veterans affairs, there are about 520 students like Reust enrolled at K-State this fall semester who are certified to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the GI Bill. Those veterans are a mixture of undergraduates and graduates. With their own ambitions and reasons for attending K-State, they find a range of opportunities to integrate into campus life.

Reust decided to pull together support for other veterans on campus and their family members. He founded K-State Military Veterans, a group that helps military members transition into college life. The student organization began in spring 2008 with five members, and since then membership has grown to 30.

"Our members have excelled in a variety of majors, and so the insight gained by this experience is passed onto all of our membership," said Reust, who is the group's president and a nontraditional student ambassador. "We also reach out to the community and create partnerships. Our larger community is comprised of both military and civilians, and veterans act as a bridge between the two. Having lived in both worlds, we can help find the commonalities inherent in both systems."

Reust decided to further his education because he would like a career that combines his experience in languages and international cultures with practice in economics or journalism.

"I had multiple combat tours and loved the military lifestyle," Reust said. "However, when I was given the opportunity to come to K-State, I had to jump at it. Coming here was a dream of mine since I was a child growing up in tiny Allen, Kansas."

Patrick Kirk, senior in history and a 2004 graduate of Scott Community High School, Scott City, was a K-State student from fall 2005 to spring 2008, when he had to leave mid-semester for an overseas deployment with the U.S. Marines. He served in Iraq from August 2008 to March 2009, and he knew that when he returned he would continue his education at K-State.

"I want a college education, and this is where I want to get it from," Kirk said. "My father and grandfather both graduated from here, and I have been coming here for football games all of my life. We are K-State fans. Besides that, this is where most of my friends are."

At K-State, Kirk has enhanced his education with history research projects and has been involved as a member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He also is in the Marine Corps Reserve. 

Noortje Crabtree, junior in biology, Herington, joined the U.S. Army in 2004. Crabtree is originally from Waasmunster, Belgium, and came to the United States after marrying a man from Missouri. She decided to join the Army after her husband, who was a member of the military police, suggested it. Crabtree spent a year serving in Iraq.

"Over there you learn a lot of things about who you are, what you are capable of, and what love and friendship truly are," she said. "I felt a part of something bigger -- something powerful -- and with that comes a certain pride."

Crabtree's service ended in 2007, and she decided to get a degree to reach her career goals. Because she was stationed at Fort Riley, K-State was close and therefore a convenient choice to fulfill her goal of becoming an environmental scientist.

She has a work-study job at K-State's office of veterans affairs. She said it allows her to focus on school while also earning money and gives her the opportunity to meet people on campus, including other veterans.

On Nov. 11, K-State veterans and students will celebrate Veteran's Day. The K-State Military Veterans group will help with various community events, including a Veterans Day breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. at the American Legion Post 17, 114 McCall Road.

"The group will be serving all local area veterans breakfast and participating in events all during that week to promote awareness and give a hearty thank you," Reust said.