Recently I returned from Afghanistan and have made the transition from ‘Soldier to Student.’ The move has been a bit tedious but I have managed well enough. One of the advantages that I have is that I have been a military scholar for many years, dating back to my early days in the Army when I received my Associates Degree while on Active Duty. However, all of that experience doesn’t change the realities that our Nation’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines face when making the transition from the battlefield to the campus.
VFW magazine recently published an article called “From ‘Books to Boots’ – Adapting to College Life” that chronicles the experiences student-veterans are facing today. As pointed out in the article, one of the most important things that Veterans can do when arriving on campus is “getting involved on campus to help with the transition to college life.” Perception in the classroom of both the students and teachers who haven’t served in the military may or may not be well informed. The experience of the student-veteran is unique and requires a voice on campus that can work to make a seamless transition for the student-veteran as we assimilate into the civilian academic community.
Student Veteran Organizations (SVO) have been serving as that voice on campuses all across America for many years. And the most successful organizations are those that are well supported by the academic institution. We at the American Legion should be a the forefront of this effort to bring the returning Veterans into the academic world. By building partnerships with SVOs across the spectrum of colleges and universities in the communities that we support, from the local Post to the Department, the American Legion can have an immediate impact the future success of both the student-veterans and the Legion itself.
The American Legion has the means and ways to provide the type of direct support that Veterans need to “acclimate to a very different lifestyle,” such as offering advice on Veterans benefits, providing material support or even working to influence academic institutions to provide “reduced tuition for veterans and their families.” This is type of partnership that yields results beneficial to the Veteran and ultimately can lead to increased membership within the Legion. The commander of Post 1991 in Jonesboro, AK, Sid Mize, noted after letting “the student-veteran organization from Arkansas State University (ASU) hold meeting at the Post… [that] he’s gained a few members in this way. But the most rewarding part is simply being there if someone should have a question or concern.”
I am currently a student-veteran at Northwestern University and am in talks with fellow Veterans on campus. We are days away from chartering the first SVO on the campus of NU, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. And as Adjutant of Paul Revere Post 623, I’ll be taking the steps outlined above to make a difference in the lives of Chicagoland’s student-veterans. If you are a Veteran, and you are now or are considering going back to school, leave a comment below or send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your experience. Tell us how we can help. And consider joining our ranks to keep the momentum alive.