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August 13, 2013
By Abbie Walker
Donald "Paul" Stockton did not always know where he would end up working after earning his bachelor's degree in 2012 from the University of Nevada, Reno and serving two tours overseas with the Navy. To him, a desk and cubicle were far from his mind after living on vessels in the sea and infiltrating areas like the Persian Gulf in 2003 and Kandahar Afghanistan in 2011.
"No, I never imagined I would be working in an office, but I am so happy to be where I am now," Stockton said. "I am helping veterans through the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership grant and giving them access to health programs they might not know exist."
Stockton has taken on the role as outreach technician for the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership grant, known as VITAL. The grants allows for Stockton to receive a paycheck and help veteran students understand their options for healthcare thanks in part to a huge partnership with the Veterans Affairs Hospital and Veterans Services on campus.
"Most vets don't understand the access they have to healthcare and how much money they can save," Stockton said. "Vets who have served their required time in the military more than likely are eligible to receive five years of paid medical care and most vets are unaware of that."
To Stockton, the point is to layout the information as easily as possible and to make it accessible so student veterans get what they deserve.
"My job is to provide guidance to brand new vets," Stockton said. "I help them understand the complicated world of health care and other questions they may have whether it is about school or personal issues. We are an extra hand for Veterans Services."
It is not all seriousness and discussions about healthcare for Stockton. He provides any form of support and helps plan fun community outreach events for veterans especially those most closely involved in Wolf Pack Vets, Nu Phi and Omega Delta Sigma, three veteran organizations available to University students. Some events include a hike up Mount Rose Mountain south of Reno, attending Wolf Pack football games hosting barbeques and more.
Stockton graduated in December 2012 from the University with a bachelor's of arts degree in history and a minor in political science, which he credits his completion to the help from the Post - 9/11 GI Bill, which provides up to 36 months of education benefits.
"I remember when I first attended the University in 2009 and we were trying to navigate the Post GI Bill and there was really no advising beyond Veteran Services," Stockton said. "Now, resources and staff added to the office have far and away increased and I believe it has helped the lives of vets on campus."
Veteran Services is one of many student-success services set to move into the new Student Achievement Center planned for complete in December 2015. The building will offer students core success services in one location on campus.
Although there are no immediate plans to leave his job, Stockton hopes that the program eventually becomes self-sustainable.
"I love what I am doing, but I want it to be a program that student veterans run themselves," Stockton said.
Stockton plans on enrolling into a master's of education program at the University in the coming year.
Abbie Walker is a graduate student writer for the University Communications.