Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 81 - Support our troops in education, too

After 19 years in the U.S. Army, Steven W. Todd finally arrived at Western Michigan University last year - with needs the average freshman could hardly imagine.

The 41-year-old veteran has trouble concentrating in class due to a brain injury he suffered when he was struck by a stray bullet during his service in Operation Desert Storm. Additionally, Todd was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

He might not have survived the transition from being a soldier to becoming a student if not for the enormous support he received on his college campus. Many universities are starting to realize the need to provide special services to support specific types of non-traditional students. (I hope my university jumps on this bandwagon soon.)

The University of Nevada at Reno, for example, hosts special events like tailgate parties every week during football season - just for veterans - a decidedly non-traditional breed of students. The question most commonly asked of them is not “Did you study for the history test?" It's “Have you ever killed anybody?” Can you imagine fielding a question like that every day? Experts on this transition from combat to campus say that being surrounded by people who won't make snap judgments is the most important thing to vets.

Every campus community should become sensitive to the needs of returning soldiers. After more than 8 years in the current wars, the US is sure to have more soldiers who'll want to return to school in the future. There are over 600,000 Afghanistan and Iraq-war veterans already in the US today. Chances are, more of them will become college students as well. You may have an opportunity to attend classes with some of them. Show these brave men and women your gratitude. Offer support if you get the chance or the privilege.

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