Skip to Main Content

Veterans Center Receives Military Friendly Status

June 25, 2022 - 3 minute read

Richard Lewis '18

Concordia University Irvine’s Veterans Resource Center has a new director and a new status as a Military Friendly institution.

The Staff Sergeant Matthew Thompson Veterans Resource Center boasts the largest private veterans resource space in Orange County and offers a number of initiatives to help veterans thrive in school and in life. Thanks to the GI Bill, veterans can attend Concordia for five years (10 semesters) for free. They also receive $1,000 a year for books and a living stipend while enrolled.

“In the last year, we had 98 students using benefits through the Veterans Administration,” says director Richard Lewis ’18. “Right now we’re at about 130 military-connected students, which includes veterans, spouses of veterans, and children of veterans.”

Concordia recently was named a Silver Tier Military Friendly educational institution by the VIQTORY Military Marketing Network, placing it in the top 20 percent of schools in the nation. The award takes into consideration veteran graduation rates, size of the Veterans Center, and the incentives Concordia makes available beyond those covered by the GI Bill.

For example, at Concordia, military spouses receive a ten percent discount for all online degrees, graduate and undergraduate. The Center also provides a “no-questions-asked food pantry” with healthy snacks and foods.

“People do use it,” says Lewis. “Food anxiety is a major problem in veteran communities.”

Veterans Resource Center

A lending library of used textbooks is also a great help for veterans and their spouses. And recently, an anonymous donor funded an endowed scholarship to help with costs to veterans that are not covered by other programs.

VIQTORY Marketing, which created the award, calls Military Friendly status “the standard that measures an organization’s commitment, effort and success in creating sustainable and meaningful benefit for the military community.”

The Center is enjoying new leadership under Lewis, who first arrived at Concordia’s campus six days after he got out of the Army in 2015.

“I drove from North Carolina with all my earthly possessions, got ready for class, and there I was,” he says.

A week later he was hired to work in the Veterans Resource Center. Prior to that, he served as a paratrooper and then a combat cameraman, performing photography and videography for the Army.

“I was attached to a Psychological Operations unit and mostly documented anti-terrorism training events in foreign countries with special forces,” he says.

One training scenario in Africa involved a hijacked yacht. Lewis filmed the exercise as forces approached in rubber boats, rappelled onto the yacht, de-escalated the situation, shot bad guy targets (red balloons) and avoided shooting non-combatant targets (white balloons). Lewis’s video captured the event and allowed commanders to see how well the exercise had been performed.

At Concordia, his days are less eventful, but no less meaningful.

“My door is always open. I’m always available to talk to students about any problems they have,” he says. “I emphasize having a one-on-one relationship so they can ask me anything about their benefits knowing they’re not bothering me.”

Lewis helps veterans claim all their GI Bill benefits at Concordia. He also leads a veterans peer-support group by Zoom every Thursday night to talk about veteran-specific issues like anxiety and trauma.


Back to top