Spaces and graces for student veterans

Cadets including UW-Whitewater junior Marli Kram, front, attend the commissioning ceremony for seniors Ethan Christensen and Adam Earle.  The Warhawk Company, Army Reserve Officers Training Corps at UW-Whitewater held its spring commissioning ceremony for two seniors prior to commencement on Saturday, May 13, 2017.  (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner) DIGITAL MANIPULATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS OTHER THAN NORMAL MINIMAL CROPPING AND TONING IS PROHIBITED., CREDIT PHOTOS: UW-WHITEWATER PHOTO/CRAIG SCHREINER

UW-WHITEWATER PHOTO/CRAIG SCHREINER

Cadets including UW-Whitewater junior Marli Kram, front, attend the commissioning ceremony for seniors Ethan Christensen and Adam Earle. The Warhawk Company, Army Reserve Officers Training Corps at UW-Whitewater held its spring commissioning ceremony for two seniors prior to commencement on Saturday, May 13, 2017. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner) DIGITAL MANIPULATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS OTHER THAN NORMAL MINIMAL CROPPING AND TONING IS PROHIBITED., CREDIT PHOTOS: UW-WHITEWATER PHOTO/CRAIG SCHREINER

Brooklyn Stevenson, Lifestyle Jornalist

As Veterans Day is right around the corner, we should take the time to think about our UW-Whitewater student veterans. Veterans are usually looked at as older, retired people that have served, but this is not always the case. There are many student veterans on campus that do not always have the voice, recognition, or space to show their presence on campus. There is an organization working to build that space and students who go unnoticed for their time served.

“As it stands right now, we do not have an active organization on campus. This is due to several factors, the graduation of student leadership coupled with the pandemic made it difficult for the organization to continue. This gives our student veterans the opportunity to rebuild an organization to meet their needs,” said Student Veterans Organization advisor, Kris McMenamin.

There may also be a lot of student veterans looking for somewhere to go to be able to talk about their experiences and relate to what they have been through. 

McMenamin says, “My hope for the Student Veteran Organization is to be a place for Veterans to find support during their transition from military service to higher education. Going through this myself a few years ago, there was a culture shock leaving active duty and coming to a college campus. A Student Veteran Organization can offer a wide array of peer support and encouragement for new students.

Although McMenamin says, “It is my hope that the organization works to give veterans a space and a voice, as well as integrate into campus and find academic success,” there are some student veterans who may not feel they need this and are already comfortable with the space they have created for themselves. 

King Vang, a sophomore majoring in advertising says, “Would I get involved with the veteran groups? Honestly, I probably wouldn’t for me. If they wanted me to come out and support events, I would come out a few times you know to watch out for some people.”

A buddy of Vang’s passed away at the same time Vang was injured, so Vang said he would go out in support for his buddy. Now, even though Vang does not necessarily feel the need to join an organization like some other student veterans, that does not mean the transition into student life wasn’t hard.

“It’s been quite a challenge I would say. When I first came back, even though I wasn’t in long, it was kind of hard to just adjust in general. I remember when I was told I was going home, I was on a bus to go to the airport, and then just stepping off that bus was weird because going to the airport was so different. Everyone was on their phones and you’re not really able to go on your phones as much at least where I was because I was at a traditional place. Seeing huge crowds of people having fun and having freedom, it was just so weird to me,” said Vang. 

Vang also discussed how the challenge of transitioning from military to civilian life propelled him to seek out his education at UW-Whitewater. For him, it  has not only become a way to achieve academic success but personal goals as well.

“Wherever I would hear things drop like a spoon or something, I would react really fast because my job was infantry, my MOS. So, I was an eleven bravo. I would say it was quite a challenge, especially just adjusting in general. I took step by steps like going to work in retail and other jobs just to try and get back with my social life. I decided that college was the best choice for me with my goals, and I needed to be with people near my age so I can transition better. Ever since I came here, it has gotten better. I’ve built my own home here,” said Vang.

So, whether student veterans are looking for a space to share their voice like the one McMenamin is trying to build with the Student Veterans Organization or they have already created a home for themselves like King Vang, there are options for every student veteran. Student veterans deserve a chance to be recognized as much as any other veterans. They have served, and are now trying to continue the next part of their life; pursuing a college education at UW Whitewater. With Veterans Day near, let us show our student veterans the love, respect, and appreciation for all their hard work and service to our country. 

If you are interesting in finding some events planned for Veterans Week they will be announced on the Warhawk Newsletter: https://www.uww.edu/fye/family/family-newsletter

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