Communication a Key for Air Force Veteran
Wilbur Hopes to Use Degree to Help Fellow Vets
Maybe it was the flash, maybe it was the blast. Shawn Wilbur didn't really think it was a big deal when a land mine went off while he was splicing cable near the Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait on September 2, 1996.
"It was far enough away that it didn't hurt me or anything, but I did see a lot of the bright flash," he said.
From that time forward Wilbur's eyesight began to deteriorate to point that he is legally blind today.
"Maybe it was the pressure wave from the land mine. Maybe it was staring at the quick bright flash." Wilbur said. "I just picked myself up and went on my way."
Wilbur, now retired, is dedicated to helping veterans and keeping veterans' issues in the spotlight. He is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Communication Arts at Bellevue University to facilitate those goals.
"I enjoy the atmosphere (at Bellevue University)," he said. "I enjoy what's being taught because I can apply it directly to what I do for veterans' assistance. It correlates tenfold to what I do."
Wilbur is the service officer for the Bellevue Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2280. He also has an office in the Veterans Administration building, working with the Blinded Veterans Association. His responsibilities include contacting representatives and senators at both the state and national level.
"When I do my speeches in class, I always choose a veterans' issue to address," Wilbur said. "When I do that, whether it's a homeless veterans' issue or Gulf War Syndrome, I get a reply back from the younger generation. I get to hear what they know or what they perceive about veterans' issues."
Wilbur's efforts have impressed Kate Joeckel, an Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences.
"Shawn is so highly motivated and I think his motivation stems in part from his service experience," she said. "His commitment to other veterans is so obvious and sincere and it comes from having ‘walked in their shoes,' so to speak."
Wilbur was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base when he retired, so the convenience of attending a school right down the road along with strong word of mouth from fellow veterans influenced his decision to attend Bellevue University.
Bellevue Specialized Transportation helps get Wilbur to and from campus as well as around the local area. Specialized equipment at home helps him keep up with his reading.
"It will project anything on the book onto a television set, so I can see it," Wilbur explained, "I can adjust the background color or the color of the words to anything I want."
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