By Anna Flagg
A new student organization, Veterans of Baylor, is coming to campus this fall with the help of retired Lt. Col. Matt Pirko.
Pirko served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring in April 2009 and is now at Baylor working to earn a doctorate in management information systems.
Pirko resides in Waco with his wife, and has two children, one of which is in the Marine Corps serving in Afghanistan.
“Veterans are a unique kind of people with an experience level and sense of family that a lot of other students may not have,” Pirko said.
He hopes that by creating a veterans club, students can have a place to vent and share war stories.
Pirko wants the group to be a community where people can feel comfortable and find unity through shared experiences.
“This group is not about me, but instead it is about creating a place for people like myself who have been taken out of a familiar environment and placed in a new one,” Pirko said. “The change can be a difficult one, and I want this group to help meet some of their needs.”
When Pirko came to Baylor, he was interested in finding out if veterans operate on campus, but found there was no local veterans’ club.
Dr. Janet Bagby, a senior lecturer in educational psychology and the faculty advisor for the veteran group, was able to assist him in forming the organization.
Though there has not been a previous veterans’ club on campus, there is a national organization, Student Veterans of America, that provides services to these campus clubs.
Bagby is looking forward to working with the students and providing support for the organization.
“I am thrilled the club will finally be chartered early this fall,” Bagby said. “Matt [Pirko] will provide excellent leadership as club president.”
Pirko hopes to connect with the ROTC on campus. He sees opportunities in the future to mentor the cadets in both the Army and Air Force programs.
There are a number of veteran groups within McLennan County, and Pirko hopes to seek opportunities for the club to participate in military-related volunteer efforts.
He wants Veterans of Baylor to be a place to come together, but also a group that can reach out to the community.
One group Pirko hopes to work with is the Veterans’ Coalition in McLennan County, which was started by Maggie McCarthy in order to provide services to veterans under one umbrella.
In a recent Waco Tribune-Herald article, McCarthy discussed the coalition and said she wants feedback from Waco veterans in order to sufficiently serve them.
With the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 approaching, Pirko is hoping to raise even more awareness for the military and the work they have accomplished.
“Baylor has a lot of strong ties to the military, and a lot of notable past presidents were in the military,” Pirko said. “I am pleased with the focus Baylor places on veterans and the way Baylor is addressing Sept. 11.”
For more information on Veterans of Baylor, contact Pirko at Matt_Pirko@baylor.edu.