Webster University offers a VetSuccess on Campus program. The program offers everything from job references to counseling for veterans.
Webster University’s Jason Blakemore sits in his office helping troubled veterans navigate their college experience and thrive in their personal life.
“When life starts becoming overwhelming or you start to get to a point where you’re frustrated, I’m here,” Blakemore said.
Blakemore is in charge of Webster’s VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) program. Blakemore and VSOC have been at Webster since October 2013. Webster University is the only school in Missouri with this type of program.
Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University and St. Louis Community College have all requested for VSOC. Webster University was chosen to have a VSOC program because of the number of veterans it has on the home campus and at extended campuses.
Webster typically has had 3,500 to 4,500 military-dependent and in-service students between its multiple campuses.
“Webster does a great job of taking care of their students,” Blakemore said. “That’s the reason Webster was selected.”
Blakemore is a resource for veterans within the entire state of Missouri since Webster is the only school in Missouri with a VSOC program. The program offers benefits such as job references, financial benefits, counseling and anything else the veterans need help with.
“I was calling around helping make dental appointments for a student one time that had never done that for himself. Mom always did it before,” Blakemore said.
Blakemore is also a licensed counselor, which is one of the reasons he believes he was hired for the job. Along with being a licensed counselor, he relates with the veterans because he is an Iraq veteran.
“You have to respect those that are carrying that flag and carrying that torch because they’re doing what their government tells them to do and without that, we’re less safe,” Blakemore said.
James Dye is a veteran at Webster University who has been using VSOC’s benefits.
Dye joined the U.S. Army at age 17 and left for basic training just 11 days after graduating High School in 1992. He went to Fort Benning, Georgia to attend U.S. Army Airborne School to learn how to jump out of an aircraft successfully. He was deployed to Haiti and Kosovo, as well as New Orleans for security operations during the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
In 2011, Dye left the military and had to start a new chapter of his life.
“I experienced [and still] experience difficulty transitioning from military to civilian life. Being in the military was easy. It isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. I found very few ‘gray’ areas within the military lifestyle, whereas there are nothing but ‘gray’ areas within the civilian lifestyle,” Dye said.
Dye has been a student at Webster University since 2019. He has sat down with Blakemore on a number of occasions because of his difficulty transitioning to life outside of the military.
“Most people on the VA side of things not only care about the program, but genuinely care about the veterans working through the program.” Dye said. “Jason Blakemore goes above and beyond to be a catalyst for success for those veterans he is serving.”
Despite Dye’s appreciation for the VSOC program, it isn’t as well known as he thinks it should be. He personally heard about the program by accident.
“I believe it should be a stepping stone for veterans,” Dye said.
Contrarily, with the U.S. pulling out of Afghanistan, Blakemore has seen a rise in students, mostly outside of Webster, using their VSOC benefits.
Blakemore said most of these veterans have approached him needing to talk and get some things off their chest. Blakemore also said it has energized students to use their benefits.
He is happy to see a different, positive energy of students getting back into the system.
“Without the VetSuccess program, I would be a disabled veteran who isn’t working on a double major, trying to improve the quality of life for his family,” Dye said.