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Omega Delta Sigma Fosters Community & Relationships For Military Veterans

Dexter Mills is president of Omega Delta Sigma, a Lion Ambassador, and a 24-year-old junior pursuing a biology degree at University Park.

College came later in Mills’ life after serving three years in the Army and a six-month deployment in Afghanistan. After hearing from his mentor that it was time for Mills to head to college, that’s when he found himself heading to Penn State.

“I learned a lot about myself [being in the military]. I’m more capable of handling challenges now than I was when I was 18 years old and coming out of high school,” Mills said.

Mills’ freshman year was in the fall of 2020, and even though organizations weren’t formally meeting in person, he knew he still needed to get involved. That’s when he was introduced to ODS.

ODS is a military and veterans fraternity that has 10 active members and 11 prospective members. Penn State’s chapter began in 2011 with its founder Sam Smith. Prior to this chapter, the university had Penn State Student Veterans Organization (PSUVO), which is a social organization for veterans. Now, ODS and PSUVO work in tandem.

Courtesy of Omega Delta Sigma

“[Sam] wanted something that was a little deeper, community-service focused, and a tighter relationship between our members… At that time, there wasn’t a veterans’ fraternity on campus,” Mills said.

When Smith initiated the chapter, finding members was quite challenging. When veterans come out of such a tight-knit military environment, it’s difficult to attach themselves to another organization where “connection and dedication” are prevalent.

Now, veterans entering college average between the ages of 23 to 27. Members are able to recognize there’s a common military experience, and ODS offers the opportunity to branch out and help shape identity outside of the military.

“I feel like my story is ‘kind of’ representative because there’s a lot of people with similar backgrounds. But there are also people who come from so many different backgrounds as well,” Mills said. “Omega Delta Sigma is more about fellowship.”

In 2021, ODS was provided a house by the State College Veterans Club. President Bill McCamley sold the property to the university and repaired it to house the members. Even though veterans receive a living stipend, State College housing prices are quite expensive. Now, members can bond more than ever.

Courtesy of Omega Delta Sigma

One of the key goals of the fraternity is “helping the veteran community transition out of the military mindset into a civilian, career, and goal-oriented mindset.”

“There’s a big difference between how people communicate,” Mills said. “You’re going from everything is very direct and structured to a more people-oriented environment. It can be challenging for some.”

Mills stated another goal the fraternity has is giving members the community service aspect that provides extra purpose outside of the typical school day.

ODS has worked with the Dear Hero program at Penn State, which is “a group of students united to boost the morale of deployed troops and help our nation’s veterans and their families back home.”

As well as that partnership, the fraternity usually holds a 5K, a general open house, a Mike Murphy Memorial game that supports a scholarship for Navy ROTC cadets, and a care packaging event held in December.

Courtesy of Omega Delta Sigma

Soon, a food/backpack/care drive will take place for the local State College veteran population that is struggling with “houselessness and food security.” ODS is also determined to show all veterans the resources that are available at University Park by utilizing the veteran center.

On the personal growth side, ODS pushes for members to be involved in other organizations to spread the resources that veterans can educate others on.

“A lot of times veterans will come back and don’t necessarily feel that they deserve the resources provided to them or they don’t know that they’re there,” Mills said. “So teaching people that resources are available to them is a big part of the job.”

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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