Western honors, celebrates veterans with service dog program donation, scholarship

Contact: Deanne Puca

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University will recognize the Blue Star Service Dogs (BSSD) for military veterans during the Broncos’ rivalry football game against Central Michigan University on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. in Waldo Stadium.

During a timeout in the first half of the game, representatives from the Office of Veterans and Military Affairs will honor BSSD dogs and trainers and recognize $15,000 that was donated to the organization over the summer through the sale of Operation Hat Trick (OHT) merchandise. Blue Star Service Dogs will name a dog cadet in honor of WMU, and Bronco fans will have an opportunity to vote on that name at the football game. Update: Broncos chose Waldo as the name of a new service dog with 36% of the votes, with 141 fans voting at the football game.

WMU OHT merchandise directly impacts veterans in the community and on campus, including funding a scholarship awarded annually.

Applications for the OHT Visible and Invisible Wounds of War Scholarship will be accepted through Thursday, Nov. 30, says Kenneth Franks, military advocate for the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs.

In addition, the office is sponsoring a Solidarity 5K Ruck March on Friday, Nov. 10. Open to the public, participants will meet at Ellsworth Hall at 9 a.m. to begin the course that circles around campus. Register for the Solidarity 5K Ruck March

Western is consistently ranked as a Military Friendly university and Best for Vets by Military Times magazine. The University continues to broaden services for veterans, such as the VetSuccess on Campus program, which is the first Veterans Affairs student success program of its kind in Michigan. As an additional benefit, the University recognizes all veterans and their families as Michigan residents with regard to tuition costs and fees.

About Blue Star Service Dogs

Founded in 2010, veteran-focused Blue Star Service Dogs is a program about training veterans and their service dogs over time to increase the working bond between veteran and dog. It also is a unique model that increases the sustainability of a service dog as a functional tool to decrease or eliminate symptoms from their disability.

About Operation Hat Trick

Operation Hat Trick (OHT) is 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.

Operation Hat Trick will exceed $4.5 million in donations in 2024 to fill critical gaps in care for the military and veterans.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.