For veterans of recent wars, coming home is a complicated, unprecedented experience.
Unlike the blue-collars and black-and-white TV’s that the original “greatest generation” came home to after World War II, veterans of today’s wars are returning to a fast-paced, complex, and technically demanding society,
And as much as they try to envision what life will be like upon returning home, the obstacles they face are often as unpredictable as war itself.
For many of this most recent greatest generation, however, college has been the guiding signal in the dark.
Stacy Talbert, a CSU Veterans School Certifying Official of two years, was kind enough to spend some time with me to talk about why this is, and elaborate on some student-vet pointers.
Connecting with fellow vets
It’s impossible to put a value on the support and camaraderie that veterans provide for each other: staying connected with other men and women who have experienced similar trials and tribulations offers a unique sense of comfort that can’t be found anywhere else. As Stacy puts it, “no matter what path veterans choose, knowing others who came from a similar environment gives them the ‘allies’ that they wouldn’t otherwise have.” If your campus doesn’t have a veterans club or something similar, check out organizations like the Student Veterans of America to start your own chapter.
I asked Stacy what advice she’d give to veterans who might be hesitant about reaching out for advice. Her response came down to trusting the resources: “[Veteran resources] are trying to change the stigma and inform student-veterans of what’s out there. Putting yourself out there will make you get noticed, but we want to make sure they know that’s okay.” From finding out that military experience can translate to class credit, to developing a road map to success, to simply getting to know those who are there to serve you, there is nothing to lose in putting yourself out there.
The United States places a huge amount of resources in getting our vets back to work. The process, however, which is made up of many benefits and transition programs, is not always clear-cut and can be quite confusing. That’s where veteran resources especially help. The top three things Stacy and her colleagues find themselves helping student-vets with is aiding in the certification and maximization of benefits, providing information for county and state resources, and advising academic progress. As with any government program, the answers veterans seek are not always readily available. But with the right support, veteran benefits can be utilized in a straightforward and efficient manner.
Using school as a transition
All in all, college provides veterans with the medium necessary to shift from the rigid structure of military life to the inconsistency that is civilian life. On top of that, college gives veterans the skills necessary to put them ahead in their job-search, and can even compliment their military skills and lead to a service-related job (like, for example, aiding student-vets). A veteran named Guillermo passed by as Stacy and I talked about transitioning. He quickly added a brief, but extremely telling firsthand perspective of transition: “the freedom and time management of college is the most important part: from choosing your own class times to choosing when you eat your own meals.“
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