The Collegiate Veterans Association at Sam Houston State University is growing rapidly with the addition of new members this semester. After the organization was formed on campus in 2010, membership had been decreasing until recently when the remaining six members began recruiting others.
“The group before us wasn’t really spreading the word, so we’re posting little banners everywhere and advertising ourselves to reach out,” CVA President Jon Figliola said. “We’re just bringing popularity to it, pretty much.”
CVA is a national organization that allows veterans, people who know veterans and people who support the armed forces to come together and assist each other. Though the group is a student organization aimed toward helping veterans, it is open to anyone including citizens outside of SHSU.
“Essentially, we’re just veterans helping veterans whether it just be things in life, or things pertaining to college, or anything really,” Figliola said. “People getting out of the service might have PTSD or anything like that, [and] we have avenues that we can direct them to.”
The veterans share their experiences with each other in order to assist each other on how to handle certain situations. CVA meets twice a month on Thursdays at Potato Shack, and those interested in becoming a member are welcome to attend a meeting and sign up for membership.
“We just set up outside with our banner and eat some Potato Shack,” Figliola said. “It’s close to campus so some veterans that don’t have a house that stay on campus or whatever can come, and everyone likes Potato Shack because they have good beer and everything.”
CVA currently has 70 official members. Figliola joined CVA this year and is the reserves for the Navy as an E7 Chief Petty Officer.
“I joined because I got an email and I went to a meeting and met a couple of guys that served in the same branch that I did, so for me it’s just an outlet to know fellow service members,” Figliola said. “Whenever you meet other service members, you can connect on a different level than most people do.”
CVA has members from several branches of the military including the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. In order to serve as an officer for CVA, the member must be a veteran.
“We’re just a wide spread group,” Figliola said. “It’s pretty much a social group for networking; we’re not really challenging people or trying to get you to join the military [because] we’re post military.”
The members of CVA have participated in sending care packages to troops, raising money for veterans in need and have volunteered at the Salvation Army in Conroe. On April 30, CVA will be visiting the observatory.
“My favorite thing was when we went to Buffalo Wild Wings and did a fundraiser,” Figliola said. “We just had a bunch of veterans show up.”
The fundraiser at Bufflao Wild Wings was a profit-share event. All of the proceeds raised went toward CVA for them to distribute to veterans in need of financial assistance.
“We really don’t spend any money unless we have a veteran that needs help with something,” Figliola said. “Say they can’t afford to live anywhere or something happens to them, we have money to distribute to people and help out.”
According to Figliola, SHSU alumni visited CVA’s tailgate set up at football games in the fall and did not know that SHSU had an organization for veterans. Figliola said that it made the alumni extremely proud to learn that SHSU has an association now.
“This association kind of just means veterans helping veterans,” Figliola said. “Ultimately, we all come together and have a great time, but at the end of the day we want to make sure that everyone’s getting home safe and is taken care of each other. Right now we’re just trying to get known.”