and their family members
(567) 661-VETS (8387)
Owens Community College expanded its services to U.S. military veterans in 2011 by creating a dedicated Office of Veterans Services. Vickie Adams was hired as the director of what is now a three-person office instead of a one-person staff.
Marty Coombs of Point Place was already enrolled at Owens in the criminal justice program when the expansion took place. The now-retired Chief Petty Officer from the Navy described the services before and after as equally "very professional," but he noted differences after Adams started.
Prior to Adams working at Owens, "you'd call in and they would know who you were. They'd want your information and they'd take care of what you wanted," he said. "Now they are more customer-service oriented. It's 'How can I help you?' 'What problems can I fix or solve?'"
Coombs, 43, applauded the recent meetings of the Student Veterans Club, which met multiple times one day to accommodate the schedules of as many veteran students as possible.
He said Adams and her staff of Yolanda Houle and Matt Peternel are "bringing a lot of life into the (office). They're trying to make it a better experience for veterans."
All three Office of Veterans Services employees are U.S. military veterans, representing the Air Force, Army and Navy.
"We understand our students because we have lived their lives," said Adams, a retired Commander from the Air Force. "We've served through war or non-combat service. We've experienced the red tape. We've transitioned to life back home. We know what it's like for them. We understand the big picture. We want to listen to their stories and help them."
Coombs' story spans the globe, but begins in West Toledo where he graduated from Whitmer High School. He played football at the University of Cincinnati for one season before being placed on academic probation. It was at that point that he joined the Navy.
Following boot camp and nuclear power training classes, he was stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and served on the USS Honolulu SSN 718, a Los Angeles class fast attack submarine.
He remained on active duty for six years.
He then served in the U.S. Navy Reserves for the past 18 years, retiring March 1 with 24 years of total service. As a reservist, he was deployed three times for a total of 26 months from 2001-05 to the United Arab Emirates, Crete and Kuwait.
He said he felt a sense of pride and fulfillment serving in the Navy.
"I was doing something I thought mattered. ... I was doing something that helped keep the country's interests," said Coombs, a family man. He and his wife, Bonnie, have three children: Joseph, 21; Marty Jr., 12; and Raegon, 10.
During his time in the reserves, Coombs worked 14 years as a Toledo police officer. His career was cut short when in 2007 his left femur was broken making an arrest. He now has nine screws and two plates holding the bone together. He retired on disability in 2010.
Wanting a college degree, he started using his GI Bill funds at Owens in 2010, pursing his degree in criminal justice. A year later, in Fall Semester 2011, he changed his major to Alternative Energy and Sustainable Systems after seeing a poster on campus promoting the new program. He plans to graduate in May 2013.
"It's challenging and new and ever-changing," he said of the academic program. "That really attracted me; because it's something I could challenge myself with it."
For more information about the Office of Veterans Services at Owens Community College, call (567) 661-VETS.