AUGUSTA — The sign outside the University of Maine at Augusta says “Welcome Vets,” and that strikes Jason Coombs as a good thing.

“That’s huge. They don’t wait to tell you that when you get up to campus. It’s right there.”

Coombs was one of several dozen people gathered Tuesday evening in the Randall Student Center at UMA for its 50th Anniversary Veteran Recognition event, which recognizes the service of military veterans, including those found among its students.

A former Marine, Coombs served during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

He has found a community of veterans as he pursues his bachelor’s degree in public administration with minors in photography and genocide and Holocaust studies.

Sometimes it takes only a look to identify the students who have served in the military, and that’s enough to spark communication. “Our conversations are deeper and more open than they would be with nonveterans,” he said, and there’s a camaraderie that’s fueled by their shared experiences.

Even as UMA honored the service of veterans Tuesday, it is being honored by a slew of military publications that have recognized it for its service to veterans. G.I. Jobs Magazine, Military Times and the 2016 Military Advanced Education & Transition Guide to Colleges and Universities have listed UMA as military-friendly, best for veterans and a top school.

“The university understands the needs of veterans,” Coombs said, including those who may carry injuries beyond their service into civilian life.

Roger Line has a slightly different perspective. He earned his UMA bachelor’s degree in applied science online while still in the Navy. He never met any of his classmates until he arrived at the Augusta Civic Center for commencement in 2014. But key to his degree was the ability to use his military credits for his degree.

“The services offered at UMA are second to none,” he said.

Other colleges and universities are following UMA’s example. “What (UMA) President (Rebecca) Wyke mentioned,” Roger Line said, “that speaks to what Amy is doing.”

Line is married to Amy Line, also a veteran, who is the project coordinator for UMA’s Military Achievement Project.

Line attended the gathering as a member of the Kennebec County Veterans Honor Guard, which paraded the colors to open the event, which included comments by Wyke, Maine first lady Ann LePage and Adria Horn, Maine’s director of the Bureau of Veterans’ Services, who concluded the speeches by saying, “Our simple thank-you is never enough for what you do.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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