Uniting warriors: How Veteran Owls foster a brotherhood among past, present, future veterans

Meet the organization that is committed to helping fellow veterans and dependents in their transition from the military to college life by providing a support system and opportunities to participate in special events.


Iris Delahoussaye

Left to right: Veteran Owls Club’s Lenine Dolidor, Natalie Noesi, Keyon McDavis, Deyonce Briggs and Michael Carroll in front of the Student Union.

Sofia De La Espriella, Staff Writer

The Veteran Owls club currently has around 120 active members united by a shared mission: support each other in transitioning to civilian life and continuing to build camaraderie. The organization was founded in 2010 by a group of students who wanted to create a community of support representing all branches of the military. 

When the club was first founded, it was more veteran oriented, nowadays the board is building strategies to expand their collaborations and have more dependents and Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) students to achieve a broader spectrum. 

To be eligible for Veteran Owls, you have to be a veteran, JROTC student, a dependent of any kind, or on active duty in the military.

“We try to give everyone a positive outlet for their lives. Most people that are veterans don’t like being around a lot of people because some might have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or mental disabilities, but we try to give people a place to calm. We have a little intimate place to feel comfortable,” said Veteran Owls President and Army veteran Keyon McDavis.

Keyon McDavis (top left), Lenine Dolidor (top right), Deyonce Briggs (bottom left), Michael Carroll (bottom right) and Natalie Noesie (right corner) during a club meeting. (Iris Delahoussaye)

The organization offers a range of services and resources to support student veterans and dependents, including academic advising, mentorship programs, and scholarships. They also offer support through college, assistance with financial aid and housing resources, and other educational and career preparation services. 

“Whether it is interviewing skills, how to write a resume or only going out and being around people like me and discussing the military. The relationships and the bond we build every semester are what keep me here,” McDavis said.

For example, the FAU’s Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program is an entrepreneurship course sponsored by network partner Veterans Florida that provides Veterans with the knowledge and skills they need for starting and/or growing their businesses.

“I like to strongly endorse the resources that the veterans program has for entrepreneurship through the college of business because I think that those who were in the military are very mission oriented. They are geared towards service, leadership, management and mission accomplishment and getting the job done and so I think that kind of mindset and skill set translates very strongly into what we teach in the programs we offer,” said Bill “Patch” Paczkowski, retired Captain of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps and instructor with the FAU College of Business. 

Paczkowski was a Captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. He is an army veteran with 13 years of experience as a military lawyer mostly working on the combat services support capacity. 

The Veteran Owls also organize social events, community service projects, and other activities to help their members connect with each other and feel a sense of belonging. Holding events such as environmental clean ups, a fun day at Boomers, mini golf, arcade, beach days, and volunteer activities, such as painting a house for a veteran, creates a brotherhood bond between the members, just like they had in the military. 

“Imagine how challenging it is if someone has been on a tour in Afghanistan. How do they connect with someone whose worst day ever is Wi-Fi was running slow? It’s a challenging way to make connections and Veteran Owls are there for that,” said Paczkowski. 

Through her involvement in Veteran Owls, Natalie Noesi, a current board member, who serves in the Army, has learned to grow as a person and create her own community.

Veteran Owls Club members during a meeting. (Iris Delahoussaye)

“If It wasn’t for Veteran Owls, I would probably still be my anti-social self locked up in my dorm. Being a part of Veteran Owls I have definitely learned to grow as a person. I’m extremely shy so I’ve learned to make my own little community at the club,” said Noesi.

One of the most significant challenges facing veterans as they transition to civilian life is the feeling of isolation and disconnection.

“Veteran Owls are just the continuation of the unbroken bond you build on the military. Once you get out into civilian life that brotherhood is gone and it’s such a night and day difference of what it is in the military and what it is once you get out. So once you are out in the civilian world you are lost trying to figure it out so having something like Veteran Owls is perfect for that,” said Mike Kerald, a Veteran Owl who joined the Marine Corps in 2005 and went to Iraq. 

The different experiences of the Veteran Owls members reflect the big influence the club has on their college experience. 

“We understand the sacrifices and that is a big bonding point. Understanding what others have been through,” said Noesi. 

In addition to their support and service efforts, the Veteran Owls provide a unique perspective and experience to the wider campus community. Many members of the club bring a wealth of leadership skills, discipline, and diverse backgrounds to their academic and extracurricular pursuits. 

“It’s important to get a different perspective,” said Jennifer Gerdes, marketing sophomore dependent and club member. “We endorse other students to also get involved. To talk to other people and see how they went through life compared to them with their military experience.”

Editor’s note: This story is in the UP’s latest issue that can be found physically on the distribution boxes around campus or digitally through our Issuu page.

Sofia De La Espriella is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or message her on Instagram @sofidelaespriella.