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In 2019, the JCCC Foundation established the Pay It Forward Student Veteran Scholarship to provide financial assistance to help veterans reach their academic goals. It’s a generous and practical way to say “thank you” to those who have selflessly fought for our freedoms.

The scholarship allows donors to honor a living or deceased family member or loved one’s military service to our country. Learn more about how you can honor a military family member or loved one while also lending a helping hand to our veteran students at JCCC.

Meet our impressive student-veteran recipients and learn about the veterans being honored through these scholarships.

Spring 2021

Bryan Averill

“Growing up in rural Overbrook, Kansas, taught me a lot about respect, hard work and taking care of those around me. Upon graduation I decided to take those core values and join the U.S. Marine Corps as an Aviation Electronics Technician. I reached the rank of E-4, completed three tours in Iraq, and received an honorable discharge at the end of my five-year enlistment.

I’m currently working small jobs as a handyman while my wife Lauren is a teacher for the Kansas City, Kansas Public School District. We have two boys, and we are ecstatic about what this will provide for our family down the road.”

— Bryan Averill


Jerry Ingram

Honored Veteran: Jerry Ingram (Marines)
Donor: 
L. Grant Ingram

Grant Ingram honors Jerry Ingram (no relation) because of what Grant learned about the World War II veteran from others. Jerry Ingram was 15 years old when he joined the Marine Corps. By age 16 he was a tank commander in combat. He survived four of the most brutal battles of World War ll in the Pacific theater, as well as the famous Las Vegas Hilton fire in 1981, where he suffered burns. Jerry’s response to these brushes with death? Gratitude and a sense of mission. He keeps sharply in focus the mission of representing those who did not make it back, the cost of freedom, and the blessings God has afforded us all. In Jerry’s own words, “there is no greater honor than to serve God, Country and the Corps. I’ve been blessed to do all three of them, and to represent those who aren’t here.”

Note: this information about Jerry’s life and service is from PatriotFeatures.org.

Eddie Suazo

“I am currently working through the Graphic Design program at JCCC. I have always been artistic and love that I am able to apply my passion toward something bigger. This scholarship will not only help me fulfill a dream; it will allow me to become independent and provide a future for my child. The words ‘thank you’ seem inadequate to express my gratitude.”

— Eddie Suazo


Edward J Hughes, Jr.

Honored Veteran: Edward J. Hughes, Jr. (Marines)
Donor: 
Jerome Hughes

Edward J. Hughes, Jr. was a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. He joined the Marines right out of high school in 1943. As a private first class, he fought in the tail end of the battle of Iwo Jima, but his biggest battle — the biggest battle of World War ll — was the battle of Okinawa. Nearly 200,000 people from both sides were killed or wounded there. In his company of about 100 men, Hughes was one of only three who survived the battle. He went on to be a member of special occupation forces near Tsingtao, China. After the war, Hughes attended Fordham University on the GI Bill. He worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance as an actuary before owning his own insurance business on Long Island, where he grew up. He died in 2017 and is survived by three children. Jerry Hughes, his brother who is honoring him with this scholarship, served in the Air Force as a fighter pilot for 30 years.

Grafton Solomon

“This is my last semester at Johnson County Community College and I have truly enjoyed earning my degree from this institution. I will be moving on to obtain my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. I have a 7-year-old daughter who has been my inspiration to push through these two years at JCCC. This scholarship means a lot and it will help me accomplish my goals and finish strong with my associate degree in General Sciences.”

— Grafton Solomon


Honored Veteran: Stan Bechtel (Army)
Donor: 
Scott Weaver

Stan Bechtel was an infantryman in World War ll, serving from 1943 to 1946. He crossed France and Germany as a foot soldier, fighting the Germans until their surrender in 1945. After he left the Army, he spent about seven years with the U.S. Forest Service before returning to Marshalltown, Iowa, where he taught high school students for decades. Stan was born in 1923 and died in 2002. Scott Weaver honors Stan as one of his most influential high school teachers in Marshalltown.

Jamika Stephens

“The honor of serving has given me more than I ever imagined. I have nothing but fond memories and pride in a nation that cares to help. To stand here today — entering a completely different service-oriented field — and still have the support of veterans who understand is an unexpected and continued blessing. I’ll be entering my final year in JCCC’s Registered Nursing program, and I can’t wait to pay if forward myself someday.”

— Jamika Stephens


Traci (Vander Veen) Cheney

Honored Veteran: Traci (Vander Veen) Cheney (Army)
Donor:
David and Cathie Vander Veen

Traci was born October 31, 1964, in Battle Creek, Michigan, and was 52 years old at the time of her death. She had a passion for helping others. As a registered nurse surgical (O.R.) at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, she impacted many lives. She was not only blessed with a high level of technical expertise but also possessed compassion for the patients she encountered. Traci held the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves and was based in Springfield, Mo. She was called to active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2007 and again in 2011. She was stationed in Tikrit, Iraq, from 2007 to 2008 and in Hindu Kush, Afghanistan, in 2012. As an Army nurse, Traci treated both U.S. military personnel and local citizens with equal dedication. At the end of her service in Afghanistan her commanding officer stated, “In my 24 years of federal service, Captain Cheney is one of the finest officers who epitomizes what it is to be a leader, a Nurse Corps officer and an officer in the U.S. Army.”

Christian Leonard

“I am currently serving in the U.S. Army Reserves and have been for about six years. Using my military benefits, I have just finished my first degree in Automotive Technology and am now pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering. I cannot express enough how grateful I am to have received this scholarship. It will give me the opportunity to focus more on my academics and less on working to pay for school and other expenses.”

— Christian Leonard


Harold Schultz

Honored Veteran: Harold Schultz (Army)
Donor:
Cathy Benson

Harold Schultz was in the U.S. Army 104th Timberwolves during World War ll. He said they had the longest continuous battle time of any group in the Army. He was a forward observer and it was his job to sneak into the town, climb the tallest tower, and send back coordinates to bomb around him. He said it was the best math he’d ever done in his entire life. He was six weeks from graduating with a degree in chemical engineering from Missouri University when he enlisted. After the war, he studied marketing at MU and worked on his master’s degree at Washington University. He worked as a director of purchasing in the bakery industry most of his life, and was an amazing father and grandfather who is missed very much.

Dalton Cross

“I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy and am humbled that you are honoring other veterans through the donation of these funds. This is my freshman year at JCCC, and I hope to eventually be admitted to the Paramedic Program. I have always wanted to be a firefighter/paramedic, and this scholarship will help me achieve that goal. I would like to one day work for the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department.”

— Dalton Cross


Honored Veterans:

This scholarship gift is given in recognition of past and present heroes who bravely and boldly served or are serving in all branches of the United States Military. Thank you for your service.

Donor: Susan Shen

Jacob Shoemaker

“I served as a Missile Technician in the U.S. Navy, where I was a crew member of two ballistic missile submarines. I completed five strategic deterrent patrols, earned my Submarine Warfare qualification device, and had the distinction of test firing six Trident II missiles. I was then assigned to Strategic Weapons Facility — Pacific, where I worked as an operations supervisor overseeing transport of ordnance between shore facilities and the submarine. I completed my active-duty service in March 2020 as a Petty Officer First Class, and moved to Kansas City from Washington. I am still involved with the military as a part of the U.S. Naval Reserve. I am a first-generation college student finishing my first year at JCCC. My goal is to transfer to the University of Kansas and earn a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, with an emphasis in Biomechanics. After that, I hope to pursue a master’s degree in Medical Device Design.”

— Jacob Shoemaker

Honored Veterans:

This scholarship gift is given in recognition of past and present heroes who bravely and boldly served or are serving in all branches of the United States Military. Thank you for your service.

Donor: Susan Shen

John Marino

“I am working toward my dream of earning a doctorate in Psychology to better help American veterans like myself process the experiences we have been through. This scholarship will help me attain that goal. I cannot thank you enough for giving me the financial aid that will enable me to keep continuing my academic career. I only hope that one day I can make significant contributions to the educational pursuits of students.”

— John Marino

Henry Bloch

Honored Veteran: Henry Bloch (Air Force)
Donor:
Edward Matheny

A member of the 95th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, Henry Bloch served as a navigator on a B-17 during World War II. His tour of duty included 32 combat missions in Europe for which he earned the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf Clusters for meritorious service. His unit received a Presidential Citation for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. Bloch, who died in 2019, achieved the American dream by pioneering an industry (as founder of H&R Block) and went on to become an extraordinary humanitarian.

Seth Ortiz

“I am in my second year at JCCC and am set to graduate in December. I hope to attend a university to continue my education and become a physical education teacher and coach high school sports. JCCC is the first step in fulfilling my dream. I am medically retired from the army and am a stay-at-home father raising two girls. My wife is taking online classes at JCCC, so we will all be in school together. This scholarship will help fulfill my dream and allow me to continue my education next semester. The words ‘thank you’ cannot express the appreciation that I feel.”

— Seth Ortiz

Lafe Bauer

Honored Veteran: Lafe Bauer (Army)
Donor:
Martin Bauer

Lafe Bauer advanced from private first class to captain in the Army. During World War ll he served in the 58th Evacuation Hospital, stationed on Tacloben, Leyte and Cebu Island. He was transferred to the 670th Clearing Company in Dunaguee on Oriental Nichos Island. Following the armistice, he was assigned to a medical battalion of the Occupation Forces in Yokahama. Bauer was commissioned as a captain during his internship at Oakland Naval Hospital. He then resigned his commission and returned to medical school.

Taylor Worthington

“This summer will be my last at JCCC before I transfer to KU Edwards in the fall. I completed my Naval contract in 2019, and I am pursing a degree in social work. It is unfortunate that COVID-19 struck during my first semester at JCCC, but I have truly enjoyed my time at the College nonetheless. I am extremely happy to have spent the last year at this school and I have had a great experience. Your support is very much appreciated and serves as another memory of the help that JCCC has given me throughout my time here.”

— Taylor Worthington


Grayson Burmeister

Honored Veteran: Grayson Burmeister (National Guard and Marines)
Donor:
Martin Bauer

Grayson Burmeister served in the National Guard from 1934 to 1936 and in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945. After enlisting, he served as a drill instructor in San Diego and later at Camp Pendleton, California, as a noncommissioned officer/police sergeant/regimental police. During World War II, he was stationed in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, and served with Headquarters Company A, 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division.

Ashley Geist

“I am a U.S. Navy veteran. I served for four years aboard the USS Nimitz and the USS John C. Stennis as a personnel specialist. I have been back in school since separating in late 2018 pursing a degree in Sociology and finishing some credits at JCCC while spending time with my family. I plan on completing a master’s degree in Human Services and would like to work for a nonprofit entity in the future, crusading for social justice. Your generous contribution is truly a gift during this trying time.”

— Ashley Geist

Honored Veterans:
Scholarship given to honor, recognize and celebrate the men and women of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps — past, present and future. Your service is very much appreciated.

Donor: Hugh Libby (Navy)

Meaghan Purdy

“I am completing my second year at JCCC while being a dual enrollment student at University of Kansas, Edwards Campus. I am completing a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biosciences to further pursue a doctorate in medicine after the completion of this degree. I joined the U.S. Army as a Combat Medic where I found my love for medicine and caring for others. I recently returned from an overseas tour in May 2019 and decided to go back to school in pursuit of my dream career.”

— Meaghan Purdy

Pat Kelly

Honored Veteran: William Patrick (Pat) Kelly (Army)
Donor:
Tom Rash, (U.S. Navy Reserves Ret.)

William Patrick (Pat) Kelly was born March 23, 1947, the youngest of four children. He graduated to Heaven at age 20, as a Private First Class serving his country with the U.S. Army’s 26th Infantry in Vietnam. The U.S. military awarded him with the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart to recognize his bravery and service. In the Windsor Review, on April 2, 2021 (around his 74th birthday), Larry Kelly remembered his younger brother. “Pat didn’t live long, but he lived every day to the fullest. We had his funeral in the high school gym, and it was packed full, with people standing on the sidewalk outside.” Larry said Pat, a high school athlete, was drafted right out of high school. He added that Pat was protecting the front line, keeping territory previously won. When commanders said to keep the land no matter the cost, Pat made the ultimate sacrifice. Tom Rash honored Pat Kelly with his scholarship donation because the two met through a church league basketball team as teenagers.

Fall 2020

Joe Viviano

“I am a recently separated veteran who spent five years on active duty in the Navy. I was fortunate to have gained leadership experience early in life and have opted to continue service as a reservist in the Navy Selected Reserves. I am working on an associate degree in computer science, and this scholarship enables me to spend more time studying and less time working part-time jobs to pay for tuition. I will pay it forward when the opportunity arises.”

– Joe Viviano


Hugh Libby

Honored Veteran: Hugh L. Libby (Navy)
Donor:
Dr. Jerry and Sharon Cook

Hugh L. Libby proudly served his country by joining the United States Navy at the age of 17 in 1943. In 18 months, he became a commissioned officer by advancing from Seaman to Ensign. He served for two years on the USS Silver Cloud in the Pacific theater during World War II. Libby’s military experience influenced his future in many ways, including his desire to achieve additional education. He developed an entrepreneurial attitude which led to the creation of five companies, with much success in wholesale, retail and manufacturing responsibilities.

Chris Perry

I am a freshman at JCCC. I served 8 1/2 years in the Marine Corps and am a combat veteran. I can honestly say that opportunities like this scholarship offer lots of hope and relief and will help me achieve my goals of success at Johnson County Community College.”

— Christopher Perry


Grayson Burmeister

Honored Veteran: Grayson Burmeister (National Guard and Marines)
Donor:
Patti and Martin Bauer

Grayson Burmeister served in the National Guard from 1934 to 1936, and in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945. After enlisting, he served as a drill instructor in San Diego and later at Camp Pendleton, California, as a non-commissioned officer/police sergeant/regimental police. During World War II, he was stationed in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, and served with Headquarters Company A, 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division.

Donald Elam

“This is my freshman year. I served four years in the military as an infantryman and retired in 2014. Shortly after that, I became an emergency medical technician (EMT). My goal is to be admitted into the Paramedic program. I have always wanted to help people and think this is the best next step to do so. This scholarship will help me become less financially burdened and let me focus more on my studies.”

— Donald Elam


Jerry Ingram

Honored Veteran: Byron Hanson (Army)
Donor:
Gary and Lola Swanson

Byron E. Hanson was born in 1916 in Marquette, Kansas, and died in 1988. He served 3 ½ years in the Pacific theater during World War II and was stationed in Papua, New Guinea, with the Signal Corps. Upon his return, he married his girlfriend, Ailene Johnson, and the couple lived in and raised their three children in Clay County, Kansas. After his service, Hanson helped build Kanopolis Dam in Central Kansas and farmed near Clay Center. He was a member of the America Legion in Marquette.

Marshall Province

“I served nine years in the Army as a military police officer and survived one tour in Iraq in 2009. I’m in my third year at JCCC and have really enjoyed the opportunity and experience. I will finish my first associate degree in General Sciences this semester, and plan on continuing with my second associate degree in Horticulture thereafter. My plan is to study biosystems engineering at a four-year university, and my dream is to open an aquaponics farm someday.”

– Marshall Province


Lafe Bauer

Honored Veteran: Lafe Bauer (Army)
Donor:
Patti and Martin Bauer

Lafe Bauer advanced from private first class to captain in the Army. During World War II, he served in the 58th Evacuation Hospital, stationed on Tacloben, Leyte, and Cebu Island. He was transferred to the 670th Clearing Company in Dunaguee on Oriental Nichos Island. Following the armistice, he was assigned to a medical battalion of the Occupation Forces in Yokahama. Bauer was commissioned as a captain during his internship at Oakland Naval Hospital. He then resigned his commission and returned to medical school.

Air Force seal

“I took the very scary step of separating from the Air Force to pursue my dreams. This is my first semester at JCCC and once I graduate, I plan on transferring to another university where I will major in exercise science and minor in business management. I have a vision and plan of building my own fitness center (franchise) one day. Because of your generosity, I am a little closer to achieving my dream.”

— Feanja Smith


Air Force seal

Honored Veteran: Riley Stevens (Air Force)
Donor: 
Tom and Barbara Stevens

Riley Stevens, son of Tom and Kathy Stevens and grandson of Tom and Barbara Stevens, has served in the Air Force the past six years. He was first stationed in North Dakota. After two years, he was transferred to Korea for a year. Stevens has been serving in Germany for the past two years. He is a great American totally deserving of this honor.

Joshua Van Vleet

“During my time in the Army, I was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and was proud to be a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. This is my last semester at JCCC, and then I will be transferring to nursing school and on to becoming a nurse practitioner. This scholarship will not only help me fulfill a dream; it will also allow me to become independent and provide a future for my children.”

– Joshua Van Vleet


Jonathan Dodson

Honored Veteran: Jonathan Dodson (Army)
Donor:
Gary DeRigne

Jonathan B. Dodson enlisted in the Army as a private soldier in 1963, completed basic training and airborne school before being accepted at West Point. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and completed Infantry Officers Basic school, Ranger School and Jungle Warfare School before being promoted to 1st lieutenant and reassigned as an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam. Dodson was awarded the Silver Star, multiple Bronze Stars (with V device for valor), the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and numerous other decorations. After Vietnam, Dodson served multiple tours in Europe and Korea and was ultimately promoted to full colonel. When he retired after 33 years of service, he was reporting directly to the Chief of Staff of the Army as the liaison for all of the state-run National Guard programs. Since retirement, Dodson has volunteered with the Wounded Warriors Mentoring Program at Walter Reed Military Hospital. Donor Gary DeRigne, an Overland Park resident, served as Dodson’s platoon sergeant in Vietnam. The two men still carry shrapnel from the same North Vietnamese mortar round from September 18, 1969.

Angelica Brown

I am an Army veteran. Starting with the initial courses, I fell in love with emergency medicine. I am proud to say that I have made it to the final section of the MICT program. Thank you for creating a scholarship to assist veterans in continuing their education.”

– Angelica Brown


Ed Shelton and Tom Oldmen

Honored Veterans: Ed Shelton/Tom Oldmen (Coast Guard)
Donor:
Chuck Marcus

Captain Charles (Chuck) Marcus served with Chief Ed Shelton and Master Chief Tom Oldmen for two years aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Planetree. Their home port was Honolulu, but they were deployed for most of the time they served on the Planetree. In 1965, they rescued a man and his boat off the Island of Saipan during Typhoon Bess. During the rescue, the typhoon had winds of up to 105 knots and waves 20 to 30 feet high that rolled their ship from side to side. Shelton, Oldmen and Marcus were deployed to Vietnam in 1966 with the Navy. In 1967, they were again sent to Vietnam and then to Thailand in support of the Vietnam War effort. Shelton and Oldmen performed their duties in the dangerous Vietnam combat zone in 1966 and 1967 with outstanding leadership, giving their best when called upon to serve our country.

Caleb Mundorff

I served as a firefighter in the Navy and spent two deployments hunting pirates in the Gulf of Aden. After the service, I became an EMT and worked in the Kansas City area for six years. I am currently pursuing a degree in laboratory science so I can study bacteria and viruses. I will be transferring to the University of Kansas Medical Center to complete my coursework in another semester. Thank you so much for this gift. It is really needed, and it comes at the perfect time.”

—Caleb Mundorff


Robert Swanson

Honored Veteran: Robert Swanson (Navy)
Donors:
Gary and Lola Swanson

Gary and Lola Swanson honor Gary’s uncle, Robert L. Swanson, who served in the Navy during World War II. He was from Salina, Kansas.

Cameron Gramling

“I am a man of faith, a husband, a father of four and a disabled Army veteran who served in the Global War on Terrorism from 2009 to 2013. I am currently pursuing an education to become a physician or nurse practitioner, with the goal of eventually going abroad to help people in abject poverty and disaster-stricken areas. This scholarship comes in a time of extra financial stress due to current events. I would like to express my sincere gratitude.”

— Cameron Gramling


Korean War Veterans Memorial

Honored VeteransDeceased members of the Kansas Chapter #181 of the Korean War Veterans Association

Donor: Kansas Chapter #181 of the Korean War Veterans Association

The Kansas Chapter #181 of the Korean War Veterans Association recognizes and appreciates the military service of its members who are deceased. Their names are inscribed on granite slabs surrounding the flag mall at the beautiful Korean War Veterans Memorial at 119th and Lowell in Overland Park, Kansas.

Michael Balazs

In 2017, I was medically separated from the Navy after 14 years. I decided on a career change to information technology and security management, which is in high demand, and I really enjoy it. The veterans team at JCCC has been so welcoming and helpful. Staff and professors have made my college life so amazing. The Pay It Forward Student Veterans Scholarship is just another way JCCC has been vital for my success.”

— Michael Balazs


Jerry Nerman

Honored Veteran: Jerry Nerman (Army)
Donor:
Sue Nerman

Jerry Nerman, who grew up in the Kansas City area, married Margaret in August 1941. He enlisted the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and left for training in the Signal Corps in January 1942. He had experience working in a clothing store before the war, which enabled him to become a Supply Sergeant. Nerman served in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany with the 2nd Military Government Regiment, eventually ending in the Quartermaster General's office in Paris. It was in Paris that Jerry bought his first work of art –a pastel from a street artist. He wrote Margaret every day during the war. She kept every letter and made extensive scrapbooks until he returned home in January 1946.