Step Up For Soldiers Selects UNCW Student-Veteran for New Housing Program

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

UNCW freshman Jackson Ertel has a new place to call home, thanks to Step Up For Soldiers.

Ertel, his wife, Laura, and their infant, Liam, were selected as the first family to live in the Edward Kramer House, a Wilmington-area home designated for a veteran pursuing a college degree. The home is named in honor of Sgt. First Class Edward Kramer, a member of the120th Combined Arms Battalion in the North Carolina National Guard. Kramer was a member of the Wilmington Fire Department who was killed in the line of duty in Iraq in 2009.

“My wife and I are very humbled, thankful and above all honored to be selected for this amazing opportunity,” said Ertel, a former corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. “This has truly been the answer to our prayers. However, there are many service members who have sacrificed way more than we have, and we hope to honor them every day.”

The idea of the Kramer House began with Step Up For Soldiers’ founder, Thomas Russell. Under his guidance, the organization has built ramps and modified many houses over the years to assist veterans who suffer from loss of limbs and mobility issues. The Ertel family will live in the house until he completes his degree. At the end of their stay, half of their reduced-rate rent will be returned to them as an incentive to buy or build a home.

“We understand how challenging it is for veterans to pursue a college degree,” said Kimberly Munley, president of Step Up For Soldiers. “We want to help them achieve their goal.”

Ertel received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps last summer and began his studies at UNCW this past fall. He is majoring in business administration with a concentration in international business and operations management.

“While I am already dedicated and serious about pursuing my degree at UNCW, this opportunity has motivated me even more to succeed and make an impact on those around me,” Ertel said.

The Edward Kramer House was built by Step Up For Soldiers staff with the aid of community volunteers and local contractors. UNCW’s Office of Military Affairs and retired UNCW educational leadership professor Joanne Nottingham’s students raised money to help fund the project. Their involvement in the project is part of UNCW’s efforts to increase community, regional and global impact and enrich the student experience, one of the goals outlined in the university’s Strategic Plan.

An official ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house were held Jan. 14.

Ertel learned about the housing program through UNCW’s Office of Military Affairs. Not only did the office staff assist in helping Ertel find housing, they also were a tremendous help with Ertel’s transition from military to college, he said.

“They have given me advice and made me aware of the vast amount of resources available to veterans at UNCW,” he said. “Thank you to Thomas Russell, Vickie Kramer, Kim Munley and everyone from Step Up for Soldiers, UNCW for their amazing veterans programs, and everyone in the Wilmington area for being so considerate of our family and treating us with so much respect.”

-- Venita Jenkins


Kramer House Ribbon Cutting

UNCW freshman Jackson Ertel and Vicki Kramer, Ed Kramer’s widow, cut the ribbon during the open house for the Edward Kramer House.