Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

June 26, 2013

Former LMC campus could be veterans' haven

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE —

Imagine a state-of-the-art college focusing on the betterment of veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

There would be classes. Counseling. Dormitories. Financial aid. Ultimately, a way to thank veterans for their tireless service to their country — while imparting marketable skills and helping them get back on their feet financially.

It could mean national recognition for Jacksonville. And serve as a worthy replacement for the now-defunct, bankrupt, Lon Morris College.

It's an idea under consideration by Jack Webb, owner of the Jacksonville company 11x17. In mid-May, Webb issued a call to community advocates looking to replace Lon Morris with another educational institution.

“Essentially, if this idea could gain the support of the community, it could be a huge benefit for Jacksonville and veterans,” Webb elaborated Wednesday. “Veterans could use this opportunity to regroup after coming back from war. So many of them come back disabled. They need counseling, training, eduction, and somewhere to stay.”

This could be a totally unique opportunity, Webb said, but the effort would need to be backed by city support.

“First, we need to make sure the community wants to do this,” Webb said. “Then we would have to calculate how much money would be needed to do it and figure out how to get those funds.”

During the recent Lon Morris auction, Webb acquired much property that would be ideal to use as the foundation of a veteran's college, he said.

It's mission would be much in the same spirit as organizations such as the Lone Survivor Foundation. LSF is a a non-profit organization that focuses on helping wounded service members and their families using health, wellness, and therapeutic support. It was established in 2010 by Retired US Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, a Houston native. One of its facets is the North Cypress Medical Center a 175-bed acute care hospital located in the northwest Houston area.

The plight of veterans is well-known, but not necessarily universally addressed. A June letter posted on Craigslist — ostensibly by a veteran of the United States Armed Forces — is very telling in that regard.

“This situation I am in is unfortunate,” reads the letter from the unnamed veteran. “Sleeping in my car with my cat. I am blessed in many ways and I am trying to help others, even as I am homeless and sometimes hungry.

“Knowing my situation, I am motivated to help others find a place. This is called a moral dilemma, a gut check. I was told by someone recently that they are impressed with me and that gave me a moment of happiness, but at the end of the day, I am sleeping in my car,” the Craigslist message read.

The letter, addressed to a general audience, hits on the plight of many of today's veterans who come home from helping their country fight wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and don't have any true means of support or ways to take care of themselves.

Webb said he is hoping to help create an educational campus focussing on the true betterment of veterans — a drug free, alcohol free campus with dorm rooms, education, counseling, and support.

This idea, if properly launched and received could become nationally recognized. Webb said he is in the process of speaking to two interested parties in facilitating this idea.

Although not a veteran himself, Webb said its hard not to admire the hard work and dedication today's soldiers put in to helping their country.

This idea needs to be pursued to its fullest extent, Webb said..

“This isn't my idea or even a new one,” he said. “It is very, very early in the process, but if it happens we could do some remodeling, make the facilities completely livable and seek the outside funding. The need is definitely there.”

Those who wish to speak to Webb about the idea can email him at jrw@11x17.com.

Following is the list of property that could be used for a veterans college campus. It was acquired by Webb Feb. 4 during the Lon Morris bankruptcy auction:

• 601 College Memorial Chapel, 11 x 17, Inc.; 409 Devereux Moody Building ; 804 Farnsworth Paul Pewitt Science Center; 802 Farnsworth Williams Quadrangle; 811 College A. Frank Smith Fine Arts Building; 822 College Squibb Welcome Center / Admissions Office;

800 a College Alumni Plaza; 800 College Henderson Library & Kitzman Tech Center; 311 Tilley Craven Wilson Hall; 707 College Fair Hall; 709 College Scurlock Center; 400 Prather Brown Hall; 911 College Clark Hall 3; 410 Tilley Cole Learning Center; 404 Devereux Athletic Coaches Offices; 905 College Turner Smith Visual Arts Building; 801 Farnsworth Strother Park; 402 Tilley Sand Volleyball Court; 406 Woodlawn Sand Volleyball Court; 315 Tilley Craven Wilson Park

• 404 Tilley Alonzo's Pub 11 x 17, Inc., Jack Webb;

506 Devereux Maintenance Building; 506b Devereux Maintenance Storage; 408 Tilley Ball Room / Cafeteria; 913 Peeples Defense Football Field B; 736 Woodlawn RV Parking /Connections; 739 Woodlawn Animal Pound; N/A Proposed New Band Facility.