Host Family Program offers military-connected students experience of home away from home


Omva Family Dinner 5

Having spent more than two decades on active duty in the military, Ken Heckel has a deep appreciation for the impact that families have in keeping the military community so closely knit together.

Heckel, the director of the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs (OMVA) at Notre Dame, provides strategic direction on behalf of the provost for the University’s veteran and military-related programs. This includes working closely with faculty, administrators and staff to create, manage and coordinate initiatives in support of military-connected students and their families. Heckel, a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, completed combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as non-combat deployments to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Italy.

While not serving overseas, he was involved in support operations for airborne infantry and special operations units, while also spending time as a faculty member at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

“While teaching at West Point for many years, my wife Jen and I embraced the opportunity to welcome cadets into our home, providing a much-needed respite from the demands of military life,” Heckel said. “As we got to know these students better over time, we were able to share the joys and challenges of our family’s military experiences, and develop relationships that have grown stronger over time.”

Heckel continues, “To best support our community of military-connected students, we are excited to continue the Host Family Program at Notre Dame. This provides an opportunity for our student veterans, children of service members, and aspiring leaders in our ROTC programs to build a familiar community while they are away from home.”

Two years ago, OMVA unveiled the Host Family Program. It is designed to help establish a support system for military-connected students at Notre Dame. The goal is to provide a warm, comfortable and welcoming environment for student veterans, ROTC and military service members and their families, as well as establish strong, mutually beneficial relationships between students and the South Bend community. Faculty and staff are welcome to serve as host families, as are members of the South Bend community.

The only requirement of a host family is that they live relatively close to campus, as to not make travel time between students and host families too big of a burden.

“OMVA’s mission is to elevate the ethos of servant leadership by building a vibrant, inclusive, military-connected community here at Notre Dame,” Heckel said, “and there is no better way to demonstrate servant leadership than to welcome these students into our home and our lives.”

OMVA would like to encourage the local Notre Dame community to embody this ethos. The office invites you to sign up for the Host Family Program to help campus embrace this community of students who have already served, are serving and will serve honorably in the military.

Families interested in becoming Host Families can register immediately using the following link: OMVA Host Family Program Registration. To learn more about how you can become a host family or if you know of a military-connected student who would benefit from having a host family, please email or call 574-631-6006. 

The Dolezals supporting veteran student Claire Krueger’23 at one of her club soccer games last fall.
The Dolezals supporting veteran student Claire Krueger ’23 at one of her club soccer games last fall.