You might believe your school is doing all it can, but it’s likely you can do more to understand the sacrifices made by the former service members seated in your classrooms.
What colleges can do to better understand the sacrifices made by our former service members seated in our class. The biggest repayment you can offer them is providing a quality education that will result in a lifelong career.
The Middle East and Afghanistan are the war zone regions that keep the United States military engaged. Regardless of what our politicians tell us, the end of war for our service members is far from over.
Military service members volunteer for two reasons:
1. An absolute patriotic love of our country.
2.To earn college tuition and ultimately a degree that will result in a productive life and career. Joining the greatest military organization in the world to go to college is an inspiring example of earning a college education the hard way.
The price of serving in the military is the loss of many future memories, such as missed birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and graduations while in training or deployed overseas away from family and home. To me, the worst part of military deployment was not the risk of war, but missing family and not being home for those special memories. The true emotional discomfort came from having to read about those missed family events in a handwritten letter. Today, with so many technologic advances, email, Skype and cell phones have replaced the letters of yesterday. With technology, missed special memories are in real time and are equally as painful.
The greatest thank-you for your service can come in the form of providing quality education that will result in a lifelong career. The perfect thank-you comes not through special treatment, but through understanding that a veteran student is someone who has excelled in unimaginable environments.
Returning from war, service members become lost in the crowd of their surroundings. We are often thanked for our service, but I will admit it does feel unnatural when this happens – although I do remember a time when service members were not thanked or even acknowledged for their service. For that reason, I find myself thanking service members every chance I can as well. In the story of service members, we see the spirit of America’s past and future. When our country needed us most, we stepped forward. We raised our right hand and swore a solemn oath. We put on that uniform and earned the title veteran, which we carry to this day, regardless of whether we were a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman. We are part of a brotherhood and sisterhood that often stops us in our tracks to listen to the latest news reported from the war zone. We listen to the newscasters; we remember our own time serving; we understand, and this connection is never severed.
We return from serving with battles won and many more battles forgotten with the hope that our military detour in life was not in vain. For some, this detour is our life. We return much different from when we left because we are different. We take on life’s tasks as if they represent a mission. We are regimented, mature, task oriented and focused on the goal of obtaining a higher education.
Many of us who have landed in academia as professors find ourselves as challenged as the non-veteran professors to support the strengths and needs of veterans as they transition from a military life to pursuing higher education. What can colleges do to better understand the sacrifices made by our former service members seated in our classrooms? The greatest thank-you for your service can come in the form of providing quality education that will result in a lifelong career. The perfect thank-you comes not through special treatment, but through understanding that a veteran student is someone who has excelled in unimaginable environments. For professors who understand this reality, veteran students become the inspiration for the remainder of their class and faculty.
The value of a veteran student is this: Veterans read what is assigned, have a serious look of interest during your lecture, and are the first to raise their hands to ask a question or volunteer an answer. The veterans in your class find each other before you find them. Therefore, you ask, what is the problem we need to solve for veterans in our colleges? Perhaps it’s more of a solution we need to recognize. For example, one problem service members have when transitioning from the military environment to college is having to wait a whole month for the VA housing allowance check to arrive. During this period, service members are homeless. My suggestion is that colleges can solve this problem simply by donating unused dorm rooms to enrolled veterans until the VA housing allowance money is available.
Another problem veterans face is finding summer jobs that allow them to earn money to keep their apartments during summer break. Perhaps my first suggestion applies here as well. Colleges can solve this problem simply by donating unused dorm rooms to the enrolled veterans. The big picture is that the veteran population is less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, and no veteran should ever be homeless. Today, the majority of veterans using their GI education benefits are war veterans. This logical housing solution becomes common sense. Colleges that offer free housing to their enrolled veteran students become the recognized patriots and recognized leaders in the higher education community.
Be the one to make a difference to a veteran!
by Dr. Pietro Savo © 2015
US Navy Veteran “Non Sibi Sed Patriae”