Evan Burplah | 2014
The Edgewood College Student Veterans program has been making large strides over the last two years to make the transition from military duty to college life as seamless as possible.
“In the last five years the number of veterans on campus has exploded. The number used to be in the 30’s, now including dependents, we have 158 students,” says Veterans Services coordinator Matthew Schroeder. “This has prompted the college to create this program to guide students with the VA system, and help figure out their benefits they are entitled to.”
The program has been on campus now for two years and has been met with positive response from the growing number of veterans in the community. The program was designed to help those who have served to feel more comfortable with one another as well as become better assimilated into the student body.
“Some of our students are retired military, so coming into a classroom filled with 18 year olds can feel awkward.” says Schroeder, a veteran himself. “There is certainly some veteran/civilian disconnect. We’re trying to bridge the gap. The group allows our students to come together to share experiences, stories, and feel more comfortable being at Edgewood.”
Veterans can face a large struggle when returning from duty whether it be to find a job, attend school, or relate to everyday society. Depression, drug addiction and social isolation are at a higher rate among veterans. In 2011, a Pew survey declared that 10% of veterans that have served since 9/11 are unemployed. While 44% said that they were having trouble adjusting to civilian life. Many have experienced events that the average person cannot understand or comprehend and this program is designed to help students bridge that gap in the easiest way possible.
You might be hard pressed to pick out who may be one of the 158 veterans here on campus. “Some students are very outspoken regarding their military service, some will never say a word. Veterans often have experiences that the average Joe will never dream of having. Some are good, some are awful.” says Schroeder.
Edgewood has been recognized on numerous occasions for their service in maintaing a strong military presence on campus. GI Jobs, a military focused employment group has recognized the school as Military Friendly since 2009 and in 2012 Scott Walker recognized Edgewood for the efforts in finding employment for our veterans. Every year the school hosts a veteran’s job fair on campus. Last year more than 50 employers were present in the Edgedome and Schroeder said the event has had an “incredible attendance and very well received.” In addition, the program has partnered with the State Veterans Affairs Offices and the non-profit Dry Hootch to provide a peer to peer support network providing narcotic, alcohol, brain trauma and PTSD assistance.
To make its presence known a little better to the students of Edgewood, the Student Veterans program will be showing an award-winning documentary on Dec. 9th entitled Where Soldiers Come From. The film will showcase the full circle of deployment: Enlisting, deployment and returning to the struggles of adjusting back to everyday life. Following the documentary will be a panel discussion featuring student veterans.
“There is no dumb question to ask a veteran. Obviously, there are some questions that might cause them to look at you cross. But our students will be happy answer your questions. It’s just about asking the question and not just assuming you know.” Says Schroeder.