Honoring and Celebrating Military Kids at UW and Beyond

The University of Wisconsin–Madison is home to over 1,500 students who are children of veterans or current service members.  Our campus community seeks to recognize, acknowledge, celebrate, and uplift the unique identities, challenges, and accomplishments of military kids on our campus. Chances are, you know someone who is a military kid — an identity which can sometimes seem invisible. 

Though the lived experiences of military kids cannot be defined by a single narrative, they often face large-scale disruptions in their lives — moving frequently, changing schools and support networks, long separations from a parent, grief and loss — and learn how to be flexible, patient, and strong early in life. 

“Being a military kid often feels very unique,” says Amanda Venske, an education benefits specialist for University Veteran Services, the key point of contact for all military-connected students at UW.  

Being a military kid herself, Venske received support from University Veteran Services while earning her B.S. in Education Studies from UW–Madison in the Class of 2020. Today, she is honored to help military-connected students navigate higher education and assist them in using the educational benefits they deserve.

Growing up in a military family can mean you face challenges, but you can also be part of a large, supportive community of military- and veteran-connected families,” Venske says. “Military kids grow up to become driven, empathetic, and resilient individuals.”

Recognizing and Honoring over 1,500 Military Kids at UW — the 2022 Celebration of the Month of the Military Kid

UW military kids converse with University Veterans Services staff and enjoy Babcock ice cream to celebrate the Month of the Military Kid on Library Mall on April 28, 2022.
UW military kids converse with University Veterans Services staff and enjoy Babcock ice cream to celebrate the Month of the Military Kid on Library Mall on April 28, 2022.

Across the United States, April is designated as the Month of the Military Child. Sponsored by the Department of Defense since the 1980s, the Month of the Military Child is a time dedicated to recognizing and applauding all military kids for their sacrifices and achievements. 

During the Month of the Military Kid this year, University Veterans Services hosted several social events, including a study day and ice cream social, to provide opportunities for engagement and community for military kids. They also distributed UW-themed watercolor art kits made for students who are parents of military kids and coordinated a letter-writing campaign to current Wisconsin military children. 

University Veteran Services provides support for military kids year-round by offering education benefit help and counseling, printing and computer access, study spaces, programming to build community, and support navigating all aspects of life at UW. 

Sharing Their Stories — Isac Veers and Alex Boruch

Air Force Airman 1st Class Isac Veers, a sophomore studying Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, is one of many exceptional military kids at UW. 

“My dad has served since he graduated high school, and my mom served by staying at home with me and two other siblings while my dad was away on deployments, temporary duty travels (TDYs), and business conference trips,” Veers says. “My grandpa also served in the Army for a few years. It has been a blessing to be part of such a high-functioning family.”

Veers enlisted in the Air Force in 2019 and transferred to UW–Madison in spring 2022 after a deployment during the fall 2021 semester.  He shared his deployment experience with his father, Senior Master Sgt. Steve Veers. 

“​​I’ve always wanted to be able to do something that is bigger than myself, and joining the Air Force was the best way,” Isac Veers says. “It was super cool to see what my dad’s life was like on the other side of things since all I’ve ever known was him being gone. Like I said in a previous interview, it was just like the passing of a torch as it was his last deployment and my first. I feel that if I play my cards right, I can maybe be half as good an airman as he was.”

Veers hopes the Month of the Military Kid can spread awareness about the benefits awarded to military-connected students. He is grateful for all the support he has received from University Veterans Services and encourages military-connected students to reach out to see what resources they can offer. 

“Being in the military kid community is awesome,” says Veers. “Being part of something that is bigger than you and having a whole school supporting you is just an amazing and proud feeling.”

Staff from University Veteran Services with Alex Boruch and his dog, Nina, at this year's ice cream social on Library Mall.
Staff from University Veteran Services with Alex Boruch and his dog, Nina, at this year’s ice cream social on Library Mall.

In 2018, La Crosse native Alex Boruch earned his bachelor’s in psychology from UW–Madison. But, Boruch’s time at UW was not over quite yet. After working at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center for the year following his graduation, Boruch ditched his dreams of becoming a physical therapist to pursue a new professional aspiration —  a career dedicated to improving the health of veterans as a health science and/or clinical researcher in the Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs. 

“My background as a military kid has instilled an immense amount of respect for our veterans, their sacrifices, and their selflessness,” says Boruch. “It has undoubtedly shaped my current identity and future aspirations to work in veterans health.”

Boruch’s father was an active-duty chief warrant officer (CW4) in the U.S. Army for nearly 18 years, specializing in aviation and flying fixed-wing C-12 planes. After his death in 2007, Boruch’s family — his mom and sister — remained in La Crosse, Wis. He graduated from high school in 2014, and enrolled at UW–Madison the next fall.

“I am honored to be part of the UW Military Kid community, and I think meeting a fellow UW military kid automatically comes with a sense of comfort, knowing you do not need to explain or elaborate on your previous experiences,” says Boruch. “The common sense of patriotism and respect for our service members are things I value most.”

Boruch applied to the master’s program in the UW Department of Kinesiology and successfully completed his master’s degree in exercise psychology this spring. His graduate research focused on the pathophysiology — the functional changes that accompany a particular syndrome or disease — of Gulf War illness, a deployment-related condition affecting veterans who were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield in the early 1990s. 

Beyond his professional work, Boruch maintains a non-profit organization (Patriot Project LLC) that raises awareness for veterans’ mental health and sends care packages to deployed veterans. He is also training to become a peer mentor with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), an organization that supports survivors of fallen military service members.

As Boruch finishes his journey at UW and starts his career, he shares what he hopes more people will understand about being a military kid: “I wish more people could empathize and learn how military kids think about freedom. The price of freedom is high, and the only currency one pays is with time. Men and women who serve dedicate critical years of their lives, often missing birthdays, holidays, and graduation ceremonies. They spend time and effort dealing with various physical and mental health diagnoses at significantly higher rates than the civilian population. Many have their time abruptly cut short by paying the ultimate sacrifice.”

These esoteric lessons are difficult for anyone outside the service to comprehend, but are critical to consider and acknowledge. 

“I think military kids can recognize the price of freedom as it pertains to many hardships in their own lives through the impact it has on their loved ones,” Boruch continued. “I wish more people at UW could understand these aspects of what it means to be a military kid and be conscientious of the many men and women on the UW campus who also are or were military members as well.”

Read the story of another military-connected student, Lindsey Mathews, in the Parent and Family Program Student Spotlight.