After 9/11, Deidre Ashley’s older sister brought home a packet about joining the Marine Corps. Only in the fifth grade at the time, Ashley watched the enclosed video and read the documents. Though her older sister never ended up joining, Ashley knew what she was going to do when she grew up.
“I served seven months at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, a year at Camp Fuji, Japan, and three years at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina,” said Ashley.
“The most rewarding experience was probably the experience itself. Not a lot of people get to experience everything that a service member does.”
When Staff Sergeant Ashley returned home after four years of active duty in the Marine Corps she knew she wanted to attend college. After considering NYU, her state of origin, she chose to attend Missouri State to stay close to family.
At Missouri State, Ashley served as president of the Veterans Student Organization (VSO), which serves to further personal growth and leadership through community and campus engagement by awareness, education and services. Following graduation, she was named an office support assistant in the Oldham Family Veteran Student Center.
“I help veterans understand their benefits and make sure they’re taking the right steps to get their tuition and fees covered by their specific GI bill,” said Ashley.
Raeleen Ziegler, director of the Veteran Student Center, recognizes Ashley’s helpfulness to service connected students.
“Deidre is a hard worker and is a role model for all of the Veterans who enter the center,” said Ziegler. “Not only does she train new hires and manage inventory, but she assists with the certification of VA benefits through the VA Once system, which requires 100 percent accuracy.”
From the fire
After Ashley was informed that a local WWII Veteran’s home had been damaged by a fire, she knew the VSO could help.
“I received an email about this Veteran’s house being damaged by a fire,” said Ashley. “So I sent a few emails of my own and got a few local veterans together. We assisted in clearing the debris from the fire and spoke with the homeowner about his time in the military. I find that a lot of older Veterans like to tell you their stories, and I enjoy hearing about them.”
Since graduating with a degree in criminal justice, Ashley has continued to focus on helping other Veterans make the transition from military service to student life. She recalls her experience of being a new student on campus.
“It was a little difficult,” said Ashely. “I didn’t really know anybody. I started hanging out in the veteran’s lounge, started making friends and felt more connected to Missouri State. It’s very comforting to know that we do have a Veteran community that we can bond with and become friends with. The veteran culture is very different. We’re so unique.”
Ashley looks forward to spending her years after graduation continuing to help other student Veterans.
“I hope to become a VA school certifying official,” said Ashley. “This person helps Veterans and their dependents complete their certification request each semester in order for them to receive their benefits.”
Ziegler says that Ashley is a true #CitizenBear.
“Her willingness to go above and beyond to help any student, Veteran or citizen in the community is what sets her apart,” said Ziegler. “She is genuinely compassionate about helping other folks and will often cancel her own plans so she can help others who need it.”