Spartans are known for many attributes, including our ability to help others and treat people with compassion. That makes it no surprise that Michigan’s first-ever recipient of the National Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Scholarship is a Broad Spartan.
Jacob Weber, a supply chain management sophomore at Michigan State University, has been awarded the DAV’s grand prize scholarship of $30,000 to go towards his education. He demonstrates what it means to be a Spartan in an outstanding way. Since the age of 15, Weber has seen the need to help veterans and has done whatever he can to give back. Weber has inspired many, but his own inspiration comes from his family. Growing up around veterans and family members affected by war, Weber knew his calling at an early age.
His first solution was to start working with Treats for Troops. Through his donations since 2018, Weber has brought sweet treats to veterans at the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Hospital. Every year, he sits down and sorts out pounds of candy, adding 8–10 pieces to bags that are organized into various categories, like sugar-free and allergen-sensitive. He has been able to grow this cause by working with the students and the community of Winchester Elementary School in Northville, Michigan, where his mom used to teach. Weber and his team have been able to increase the amount of candy donated, and this past year he was even able to donate 20 pounds to the Battle Creek VA Hospital, which distributes the candy to other VA medical centers.
“I wanted them to know they were not alone, and it is OK to not always be OK,” Weber said on the importance of showing others kindness.
His grandfather, who kick-started Weber’s passion, served in Vietnam in 1967. Weber is his only grandson, and they have built a bond that cannot be broken. Weber listens to his grandpa’s stories, attends veteran events with him and can see firsthand the toll that the war has taken on his life.
“I noticed [my grandpa’s] health failing due to Parkinson’s disease, caused by Agent Orange exposure, so I began to spend a lot more time with him learning about just what a soldier goes through and how little they are cared for after,” Weber explained. “Last summer, I even bought tickets and was able to go on a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter ride with him. It is something I will never forget.”
Weber’s godmother also served in the Air Force and Army National Guard and lived in Korea as a linguist. Whenever “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays, Weber says he can see how much impact her service had on her. His mother also inspires and supports Weber through all his efforts. Even though she did not serve, she suffers from birth defects in her spine and hips as a result of the chemical exposure experienced by her father, Weber’s grandfather. Now, the mother-and-son duo are working to spread awareness of the effects of Agent Orange.
Earlier this year, they passed out thousands of wristbands, ribbons and glow sticks to show support for National Agent Orange Day, which is Aug. 10. “Knowing my grandfather is dying from Agent Orange Parkinson’s disease and my mom has birth defects in her hips and spine and little awareness is being done bothers me,” Weber said.
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Weber’s ambitions have only increased over the years. Since 2019, Weber has started working on four more projects and offers additional support to VA organizations:
On Aug. 5, when Weber was recognized as the recipient of the 2023 DAV Scholarship for his efforts, he said he was stunned. “I had made it a goal to help in as many ways as possible, but to know that this organization felt I deserved to be recognized at this level was unbelievable,” Weber said. “When I received the phone call, I thought I might have won $5,000 or maybe the $10,000 prize, but when they stated, ‘Jacob, we wanted to make sure it’s clear you know you are the grand prize scholarship winner,’ I admit I had no answer,” Weber said.
On top of the scholarship, he was asked to join the Michigan DAV on June 29 for the state convention at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. There, he was able to meet the members of the board and the Michigan Veterans, and listening to their gratitude gave him encouragement as he later gave his award speech at the 2023 DAV and Auxiliary National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In addition to receiving the DAV Scholarship, Weber has been recognized by several organizations for his philanthropic efforts. This includes the National Commissary and Fisher House for Military Families Scholarship in 2022 and 2023, Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Scholarship, the Army Aviation Association of America Great Lakes Chapter Scholarship in 2023 and the AAAA General MG Orlando E. Gonzales Scholarship in 2022. During his senior year of high school, Weber also received the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Student Citizen Scholarship, Plymouth VFW Post #6695 Voice of Democracy Essay, Plymouth Memorial Rotary Scholarship and the Plymouth Canton Schools Kim Petra Bird Elementary Scholarship. He is very appreciative of all the opportunities and said that he’s happy to be able to help lift the academic weight for himself and his family.
“I created many volunteer programs with veterans due to my family’s deep military history, and I was very surprised that in return, my programs and actions were rewarded with multiple scholarships,” Weber shared. “These scholarships have been a blessing, but I really feel the biggest benefit of giving back is still the strong connections I have made with so many multigenerational groups of veterans and their families. It has helped me to realize that the little things that I used to let bother me are easy to let go when you meet and learn the story behind so many veterans’ lives.”
Through his efforts and time spent with veterans, Weber has realized that he wants to keep up his philanthropic efforts throughout his career ahead. He plans on utilizing his degree from Broad to grow his impact.
“I want to earn my degree in supply chain management and work for the VA medical center or the DAV and help direct the best possible care and programs for our veterans,” he said, noting how difficult it can be for veterans to find a hospital that will take care of them. Weber says he’s heard of people driving more than six hours to get care or medicine and waiting years to have their claims be approved. “[I’m looking forward to] using my degree and focusing on the logistics of veterans, veterans’ homes, aging veterans and those with the highest reporting need for mental health care!”
Giving back is an attribute Weber demonstrates every day. And he hopes to inspire others to take the time to make some else feel appreciated. “Think of a group that you feel deserve more and are being ignored. [It could be] any group you are passionate about. Start small, see how you feel helping. It can help you change the direction of your life.”