Back to School

As some of us Veteran Students get ready to do the Summer School thing:

Thanks in part to the new GI Bill, veterans are leaving the military and going to back to school in record numbers. Can you blame us, the money is good and alot of us are pretty tired of getting blown up and shot at. We sit in our platoon offices or while we are out on the PT route and dream about the so much greener grass on the outside. So we go through the motions and leave active duty and then, reality b#$%^ slaps you the first day you step on campus.

Adrenaline spikes as you cross through the masses of children that surround you. The quad or university center looks shockingly like baghdad or kabul or khe sanh. You make it safely to a classroom find your seat and realize your back is to not just one door but 10 and about 400 people. This all by itself is not the hard part, its the realization that everything you have worked for and once held so much pride in means absolutely nothing to these kids. They, luckily, have no idea what it means to have been to war and they do not tend to show the respect that slightly older people do towards veterans. At first this is a hard pill to swallow but it passes with time and you realize you aren’t an NCO or an officer any more. The next bomb that will drop on you: just how old you are. I am a young buck by just about any standards but most of the kids I am in class with they were in 7th grade when I was in Afghanistan. Thats a killer, you start to feel out of place or like the old guy at the party who needs to just go home and go to sleep cause its past his bed time. These series of challenges are difficult to overcome, add on the inherent challenge of a college education and a veteran can feel strained in a hurry. So what do we do? Same thing we always do pinky, try and take over the world…. or settle for the university.

Find other veterans. Make friends, build veteran groups. When I was briefly a paratrooper I learned about LGOPP’s (little groups of pissed off paratroopers), they form any time a mass jump happens, its where whatever group of joes you find yourself with, turns into a fire team and move outs for the mission. The rule of the LGOPP is as follows: After the demise of the best Airborne plan, a most terrifying effect occurs on the battlefield. This effect is known as the rule of the LGOPs. This is, in its purest form, small groups of pissed-off 19 year old American paratroopers. They are well-trained, armed to the teeth and lack serious adult supervision. They collectively remember the Commander’s intent as “March to the sound of the guns and kill anyone who is not dressed like you…” or something like that. Happily they go about the day’s work….. We should use the same concept form LGOPVS (little groups of pissed off veteran students). Invade your university veteran center, take it over, all the assets are there we just need to use them. I hear so many vets gripe about feeling out of place or missing the camraderie when all we need to do is figure out some time to go paintballing/pub crawling and make it happen. I think that student veterans are in a unique position to be able to participate and get involved in veteran groups and that these same groups that make campus life a little bit more enjoyable could also benefit from the support network for when PTSD rears its ugly head.

So I have talked about school but what about the guys that aren’t slacking, who get out and go straight to work on the civillian side? Same deal but you have to search a little harder for other vets. Finding a group of veterans is about the best thing you can do during your transition to being a dirty civi. It takes the fear factor out of the equation and gives you something that is recognizable as everything around does a 180. Believe me, the first time you realize that its just you who decides when to get up, life changing.

Summer school starts in less than a week for me and I am just trying to get my head right because I have been doing the army reserve thing this whole break. Its like rebooting, forget tact, common courtesy, replace sir, ma’am, or sarge with dude. Greetings of the day are replaced with subtle head tilts. I have to remind myself that all those things I keyed into when I was in or working at the unit, no longer matter and its not worth getting the blood pressure up for. Time to remember that I am just a student and that this professor doesn’t know that the guy sitting in seat 3A once ran gun trucks up and down some of the deadliest roads on the planet, and the student should try to not to get offended when the professor calls him son (doesn’t work/ worth-a-try). But all in all, college ain’t bad and what is a little difficult can be made easier by finding others to embrace the suck with or drowned the difficulties in a couple of beers with. So when it comes time to get out, remember to not cut all ties and burn all bridges because most times you will find yourself missing a little part of the old life even mixed in with the new school.

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5 responses to “Back to School

  • breed3231

    Are you in a student’s veterans organization? or do you just have a group of veterans that you hang out with?
    I was sorta asking about this on the facebook board a little while ago.
    Veterans Organizations?
    Has anyone joined a veteran’s organization? VFW? Amvets? American legion?
    It seemed to me that some of these organizations could already be doing what we are trying to in this group, or that they might have alot to offer a group like this.
    If you have joined one: Do you find it helpful? Do you feel better about being part of the group?
    I have heard people give a stereotype or submit the perception of just a bunch of old guys sitting around telling stories, but what is it really about?

    I’m actually very curious to see how many of our generation are getting into organizations like this, and what their experiences are.

  • drwilden

    Yea, I am part of the Lone Star Veterans Organization, which is a houston area based group of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, http://www.lonestarveterans.org/, their slogan, “This ain’t your grandpa’s veteran’s organization”. And I am a member of IAVA, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. For me its just about knowing I am not doing this alone.
    But in regards to your statement about doing what we are doing, I would have to say they absolutely do. In fact LSVA has a peer mentor group, doing exactly what we do here, they are also pluggin this lil’ blog on thier site.
    There is also the Veteran Collegiate Socitey’s for the guys that our out in the university seen now. Thats what I was talking about taking over. I am going to try to get more involved with that this summer semester. Its not a bunch of old guys, it a bunch of veterans from our time frame…. but at the same time whats wrong with sitting around and listening to some real bad ass stories from some old school american heroes?

  • RJ

    Hey Wild Man just want to say I love what you are doing here. I just wish I could have found it sooner. I have just recently started to seek help for my issues. And for years now I have known that I probably have sum form of PTSD but have just recently been formally diagnosed. The minute that the words PTSD and TBI came out of the doc’s mouth I think my heart about stopped. The only thing going through my mind was “not me no way no how!” I’m going through a MEB and am most likely looking at a medical retirement. As much as I’m excited to get home and start being the father to my son that I desperately want to be. I’m terrified about the great beyond that we call civilian life. I have recently been given full custody of my son and that scares me more than the numerous trips to Delta or any other mission I participated in in my 27 months in country. But I commend you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting things like this out there for guys like me who have always been the typical “good soldier” that just drank water, rub sum dirt on it and soldiered on. As I sit here on my couch suffering through yet another night of being terrified to sleep, cuz after the last days events I know the nightmare’s are right around the corner, I feel some what comforted knowing that my “BROTHERS” are here for me. I thank you for what you are doing for guys like me.

    As for your question Reed, If you haven’t already been told, I am a member of the American Legion. I love it. The post I belong to is one in my home town and its a smaller post. They are comprised of 4 different sects inside of the whole org. There are the Active member’s, who are the men and women like us with active duty service. The Son’s of the Legion, who are the son’s of men and women who have served. The Daughters of the Legion, who are the daughters of service members. And finally the Marine Corps has their own sect. The Active members have the most pull in the legion but they are still kind of stuck up about our generation of soldiers being part of the chain of command. I don’t know if this is a Legion wide issue but at my post it is. The Sons, Daughters, and Marines do have a say in how things go but their decisions have to be voted on by the Active members board. But they do a lot of great things for the community and for vets. I love the feeling that I get when I walk in there cuz it feels a lot like it did back in the line. Every one is greeted by every one in the room and welcomed like brothers. As for the old guys sitting around telling war stories it’s just not true. the older guys that are normals at the post do a great job at making sure that the conversations stay away from that crap. Every one there does a great job at making it feel like a safe place and a worry free environment. I hope that helps you out. Oh and I do want to say that I am sry about being one of the drunk soldiers calling in the middle of the night. I don’t even remember it and was very surprised when another Brother called the next day to make sure I was alright. Thank you for putting up with it and for being there to listen and check up on me when I needed it. You all are true brothers and will forever be indebted to all of you for being there for me when I desperately needed it.

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