On Memorial Day of this year, veteran Tom Palozola took his own life. Palozola was deployed as a Marine for two tours in Iraq and a third tour in Afghanistan. He received a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq.
Tom attended Webster after his service and graduated with a degree in Management in 2015. He began his graduate studies in 2016. In addition, he was the president of Webster’s Student Veterans Organization (SVO) on campus from 2015 to 2016.
To honor him and his family, Webster University is changing the name of the Veterans Resource Center to the Cpl. Thomas Palozola Veterans Center. Webster University’s president, provost and Palozola’s brother Matthew Palozola will speak at the dedication. The new sign for the center will be unveiled and a plaque will be placed in the center. A formal proclamation will be presented to the Palozola family honoring their son’s legacy at Webster.
The dedication is on Oct. 20 at 10:30 a.m. outside of the Veterans Resource Center at 200 Hazel Avenue.
Tom worked as Charlie Mach’s SVO vice president and eventually succeeded him as president when Mach graduated in 2015.
During Tom’s time as president, he acquired a grant from the Home Depot Foundation for $9,000 to make the Veterans Center what it is today. The money was used to repaint the center, buy new couches, TV’s and other miscellaneous items to make the center a comfortable place for students.
“[Tom] was always trying to help other people,” Mach said. “I think that’s why he wanted to join the SVO, to continue helping out fellow veterans as much as he could.”
The staff advisor for SVO, Sara Boyd, said very few members of the current SVO knew Tom personally. This, however, has not stopped the group from promoting SVO and continue Tom’s legacy.
“That’s what vets do, they just jump in to help,” Boyd said. “Last year, [SVO] didn’t have much of a visible presence on campus. You’re going to see that change this year. The guys are going to be out in force and visible.”
This year, SVO is dedicated to educating the greater student body about suicide prevention, according to the current president of SVO Chris Fuller. They plan to host two suicide prevention workshops to educate students on recognizing signs of mental illness and how to help when they see signs of suicide in someone close to them.
Fuller said the adjustment period for veterans coming back from active service can be overwhelming, despite factors like mental illness and trauma from combat.
“That’s part of our narrative,” Fuller said. “All students struggle with issues in their lives, and then just add trauma on top of that, that can have a triggering effect and definitely needs to be addressed.”
While growing SVO’s membership is important to Fuller, he said it is not the group’s top priority. He said SVO is an open invitation to come hang out and relax with other veterans and there is no obligation to become an active member.
“The question is if veterans want the help,” Mach said. “Now that we have a veteran’s center that they can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week just so they can either relax, hang out, do homework, or whatever, it’s so much nicer having it.”
Following the ceremony, at 11:30 a.m. SVO is hosting their annual “Hog on The Quad,” at the main university quad. The barbeque is open to all students and will be catered by Kend- rick’s Meats.
“Our goal is to do [Hog on the Quad] every year on the same day, just to pay homage to [Tom] and give free food to college students,” Cory Krassinger, treasurer of the SVO, said.