More and more veterans are coming back from war and then signing up for school. With the Iraq war over and the War in Afghanistan coming to an end there is little room for service members to stay in as the military draws down. Thankfully with the educational benefits of the Post 9/11 GI bill our veterans have the opportunity to go to school and not just sit around. I took advantage of my benefits the first semester after I left the Marines.

Despite Veterans benefits the road to a degree is still a challenging one.

Most veterans spent at least four years in the military, and although much of what they learned in the service was technical, being away from school for that long can make a refresher on mathematics or essay writing difficult. This can seem almost impossible for those who have suffered wounds in war. I myself suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and a mild traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan. In algebra I would sometimes devote hours of studying and still find myself having trouble understanding a concept. At times during class I would get so frustrated that I would have to walk out.

A little support and understanding can go a long way.

The obstacles many veterans face can be overwhelming but they are not impossible especially with the help of other veterans, students, and instructors. Veterans have an amazing potential to contribute back to their community. During their service they handled some of the most advanced technology under some of the most extreme circumstances. All that is needed to unleash this awesome potential is just a little bit of support and understanding of what they have been through and what they now have to face.

Veterans want to be defined by more than their service.

I have come to find that there is very little that compares to the difficulty, frustration, and sometimes hopelessness of going through combat. However, I think it is easy to argue that transitioning out of the military comes close. What I have found to be most important to veterans is that they don’t want to be only defined by their service. They are extremely proud of what they have done, but they are ready to move on to new careers and be seen as people just like anyone else. The most important thing anyone can do to a transitioning veteran is to show appreciation while also treating them no different than anyone else. And with that support veterans can and will prevail outside of their service.

Are you a veteran returning to school? What has helped you?

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