MARQUETTE — There are around 7,000 veterans in the Upper Peninsula, but sometimes getting the benefits of service can be difficult.
NMU is trying to lower the hurdle for veteran students.
Michael Rutledge is the new Veterans Resource Representative at Northern, and his whole job is to help student veterans attain and maintain their benefits. Rutledge is a veteran himself.
He was a non-commissioned officer and served in the army for 22 years. But Rutledge says one of his biggest motivators to enlist was the benefits involved.
He always wanted to go to school after retirement and he’s since earned two degrees, including one for teaching.
“I saw this as a chance to not only work in the education field but also work with veterans, and those two things combined satisfy my needs as both an educator and a veteran. So I can help both populations at the same time rather than just one or the other,” said Rutledge.
While there are plenty of veterans at Northern getting benefits they earned through their service, he hopes to find and help more. But, the VA is a large bureaucracy, and it takes some finesse to navigate it.
Rutledge said his own experience as a veteran is an essential asset.
“When a veteran leaves here happier and satisfied that their second career path is going to be on track because they’re getting the benefits they deserve, that makes me feel good,” Rutledge added.
Rutledge works in partnership with the Michigan Veteran’s Affairs Agency, the Michigan College Access Network and NMU.
If you’re a student veteran looking for assistance with benefits, Michael Rutledge can be reached at 906–227–1402.