GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As director of Grand Valley State University’s Military and Veterans Resource Center, Jill Hinton Wolfe navigates between two campuses and travels across the country. She talks about issues student veterans are facing, and she's guided by her service dog, Hannah.
“The army taught me how to shine my boots and march in formation and like a million other things. But there's really kind of an art to being a veteran because a lot of the rules that we learned in the military do not always apply to the civilian world," Wolfe said.
Wolfe served in the army between 1995 to 1998. Afterward, she returned to school and graduated from GVSU.
In 2020, she was hired to run the veteran’s program at her alma mater.
“I think vets always have a mission, whether it's stated or not. And for me, it's always been giving these incredible individuals the opportunity to continue to serve their country in new and different ways," Wolfe said.
Veterans like student and GVSU veterans social media manager Christian Lee.
“No matter what situation a veteran finds himself in, Jill either has the answer or knows who does. And that's been very helpful for many veterans who are nervous about going back to school and starting a new chapter," Lee said.
In 2017, Wolfe was diagnosed with a rare disease called retinitis pigmentosa and in March declared legally blind.
She applied for a service dog through Leader Dogs for the Blind and was issued German Shepard Hannah this year.
”To have her not only always be my side and always be looking out for me, but also as a way to connect with the students has been incredible. My life has completely changed because of this dog and I don't know what I would do without her," Wolfe said.
Lee is well acquainted with the power of dogs. His dog, Sir Lucky, is always with him. He says that even though Hannah is on duty and should be ignored, she provides a calming presence to the veterans.
“Hannah is just a cute dog and it makes everyone comfortable to transition to civilian life," Lee said.
Wolfe says part of her job is making veterans feel supported as they transition to civilian life.
"That's kind of another one of my missions is to make sure that everybody knows actually how incredible these students are, they have some of the highest GPAs on campus, they have some of the highest graduation rates, they're amazing," Wolfe said.
While Wolfe inspires her students their bravery inspires her and it's why she’s still serving with her faithful companion by her side.
Jill and Hannah are being honored by the National Veterans of Foreign Wars organization for Its awareness campaign called #stillserving.
To learn more click here.
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