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UAB’s Veterans Services, an office of mentorship, transition and community

  • May 17, 2022
More veteran students are seeking help from UAB’s Student Veterans Services, including Obie Carnathan, a Marine who, with mentorship from director Walter C. Stewart III, is helping others.
Written by: Taylor Stewart
Media contact: Shannon Thomason

marine mentor streamWhen students returned to campus in 2021, the staff of Veterans Services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham saw a 60 percent increase in students’ seeking assistance.

That year, UAB’s Veterans Services office engaged with more than 4,000 veterans across campus and offered essential services, programs and events vital to UAB’s veteran community. This on-campus organization, led by Walter C. Stewart III — a veteran himself — seeks to give a voice to veterans and their dependents.

UAB’s veteran population has a 93 percent graduation rate, and they study in areas across campus, from the School of Nursing and the College of the Arts and Sciences to the Collat School of Business and more.

Marine finds purpose, mentor through UAB Veterans Services

Obie Carnathan, a junior studying computer science in the College of Arts and Sciences who lives in Pleasant Grove, has found a purpose on UAB’s campus through the Veterans Services office. It was the mentorship provided by the Veterans Services office that showed him how he could continue to serve a similar role in the classroom.

“When I first got to UAB, it was a little difficult for me,” Carnathan said. “I was looking for a chance to still be the leader that I once was (in the military).”

In the United States Marine Corps, Carnathan served as a suicide prevention coach. He says his experience with a childhood friend led him to want to help others regarding mental health. Carnathan recently participated as one of the organizers for Take Back the Night, an annual event that seeks to advocate for a society where sexual assault no longer exists. 

“Some of us deal with anxiety and depression,” Carnathan said. While in the military, he encountered servicemembers who were victims of sexual violence. “It goes on every day in our community, and we don’t hear about it because people are too ashamed.”

Carnathan says he is grateful for that connection with Stewart: “Not only being a veteran but someone who reached a higher rank than myself, he’s someone I instantly see as a mentor — someone I can seek guidance from.”

As a veteran student who also has a family, Carnathan has been able to talk with Stewart on crossroads he has faced.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t get overwhelmed. I often get overwhelmed, but Mr. Stewart is someone who teaches me how to map things out with my wife and kids,” Carnathan said.

To learn more about Veterans Services and the programs and aid they provide for students, visit

Guiding student veterans to success

Veterans Services staff members not only are dedicated to helping veterans and their dependents adjust to civilian life again — but also serve as mentors to help this unique group of students adjust to college life.

In addition to helping veterans with their benefits, the department also hosts its annual wreath-laying ceremony in honor of Veterans Day, Green Zone training for faculty and staff, and the group’s own commencement ceremony.

“The most important thing is I want them to know there is someone here for them,” Stewart said, “to help them when they fall.” Stewart says staff also offer students information on tutoring or study opportunities when they struggle academically.

As part of the department’s coin and cord commencement ceremony, graduates are awarded a set of cords and a challenge coin to recognize their hard work and devotion to completing their degrees.

As the department continues to expand its offerings and programs, Stewart says, they hope to continue to see an increase in engagement from the veteran community. Whether it is finding programs that can assist students when facing a crisis, making sure their veteran benefits are received or honoring their service, UAB Veterans Services offers numerous ways for its staff to support its veteran population.

Carnathan hopes traditional college students will form relationships with the veteran population on campus.

“Even if we do seem closed-off, a lot of us are very open and willing to talk,” he said. Although the students may live different lifestyles, “if you’re looking for a companion to have throughout your college experience, a veteran is a good one to have.”