Western recognized for its support of wounded military members

Contact: Deanne Puca
Russell Pliley, standing next to a helicopter at a base in Diyarbakir, Turkey.

Russell Pliley, standing next to a helicopter at a base in Diyarbakir, Turkey, is an Air Force veteran and Western geographic information science student. He received an $1,000 Operation Hat Trick Military Scholarship in November 2020.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University’s outstanding efforts in aiding the recovery of wounded U.S. combat service members and veterans has been recognized with a donation from a national nonprofit organization.

Operation Hat Trick (OHT) named Western as a finalist for its 2021 Excellence in Service Award and will make a donation to The Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund on the University’s behalf.

Western was one of seven finalists that included Texas A&M University, University of Arizona, George Mason University, North Dakota State University, Utah State University and Clemson University. These schools were chosen based on their efforts to fully integrate OHT on and off their campuses through a presence in their bookstores and other retail outlets; promoting veterans’ causes through their social media properties and advertising campaigns; and generating additional revenue that will be used to support the recovery of wounded service members and veterans.

"I am very proud of what Western Michigan has done to support Operation Hat Trick and veterans who have been wounded, and are now recovering from invisible and visible injuries,” adds Dot Sheehan, founder and CEO of Operation Hat Trick. “Despite a year of challenges, WMU has shown not only a commitment to support OHT but also a commitment to support their local community, which is so critical. We at OHT are honored and proud to partner with Western Michigan." 

Western is consistently ranked as “military friendly” and “Best for Vets." The University continues to broaden services for veterans, such as the VetSuccess on-campus program, which is the first VA student success program of its kind in Michigan. As an additional benefit, WMU recognizes all veterans and their families as Michigan residents qualifying for in-state tuition. The University also supports one veteran each year with the Operation Hat Trick scholarship, using proceeds from OHT gear sold in the bookstore.

“It's an honor to be nominated for the 2021 Excellence in Service Award. Our partnership with OHT started years ago when Nathan Hulbert, WMU alum and student veteran, contacted them about starting a scholarship program for military students. It is extremely rewarding to be able to relate the actions of WMU fans to funding for an annual military-specific scholarship for WMU students,” says Ashley Goodwin, military advocate in the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs.

A portion of each sale of OHT-branded merchandise is donated to select organizations that support the recovery of wounded service members and veterans. Through the sale of branded merchandise, Operation Hat Trick has helped more than 80 organizations that provide direct support to veterans in need. They include the Travis Mills Foundation, Semper Fi & America’s Fund, Warriors Ice Hockey Program, Hero Flights, Yellow Ribbon Fund, Fisher House, Veterans Healing Farm and Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors.

About Operation Hat Trick

Operation Hat Trickis a nonprofit organization that generates awareness and support for the recovery of service members and veterans impacted by both visible and invisible war wounds. It does so through the sale of branded merchandise and products, donating the proceeds to organizations related to that mission. WMU is the first university the organization chose to offer a dedicated scholarship, funded directly by proceeds from OHT-licensed Bronco gear purchased through the WMU Bookstore.

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