Tom Palozola sits on the opposite side of the booth at Weber’s Front Row with a Whiskey Sour in front of him. He sits with his back straight and his arms down by his side as he smiles casually. He exudes a sense of quiet intimidation.
It is this man, a former Marine machine gunner in Iraq and Afghanistan and business major at Webster who will be the new president of the Student Veteran’s Organization (SVO) at Webster University.
Palozola will be replacing Charlie Mach as the president of the SVO when Mach graduates in May. He currently fills the role of vice president. In an email Mach spoke of his conviction behind being replaced by Palozola.
“As this was my last semester, Tom was a valuable asset to have on the SVO team,” Mach said. “His determination and impulse to take the initiative exhibits the kind of Marine that he was during his time in the service. I am confident that Tom will do great things for the SVO during his time as president. Marines don’t know how to fail.”
Palozola intends to hit the ground running when he takes over with multiple initiatives aimed at helping veterans on campus. He has already created a 13-page grant proposal intended to secure a space in an empty building on campus to renovate into a veteran’s center.
“If we receive the ($10,000) grant from Home Depot we will be renovating two unused rooms on campus and turning them into a lounge and a study area,” Palozola said in an email. “Hopefully this will help attract more veterans to our school, as about 90 percent of vets here are commuters. It is also meant to try to cut down on the statistic of 49 percent of veterans who end up using their education benefits who ultimately drop out.”
Palozola believes the biggest challenge facing veterans in college right now is feeling disconnected from the general populace. He plans to work closely with other colleges in the St. Louis area to bring veterans from every branch together on multiple events in the future.
“We are looking to get all the different SVOs (in St. Louis) together either this summer or fall,” Palozola said in the same email. “We plan to have a kind of ‘SVO summit’ to strengthen local ties between schools and create a larger network for veterans.”
Palozola has been a leader since his first day after enlisting in the United States Marine Corps.
He was a squad leader in boot camp, the second highest honor awarded by Drill Instructors to recruits who perform admirably. During his time in the Marine Corps. Palazola filled the role of infantry squad leader, a position that should be filled by someone with six or more years experience.
“One of the reasons I got combat meritoriously promoted (to corporal) I was one of the only guys to keep PT’ing (physical training) in country,” Palozola said. “Nobody was making sure their Marines were keeping in shape, but my guys were always on top of their game.”