Veterans Transition From Combat to the Classroom

Making the transition back to everyday civilian life can be tough for veterans, especially if they're going back to school.

Many student veterans have to cope with high anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or simply fitting in. There is a new program at Midwestern State University to help ease vets into the classroom and for some, it's a long time coming.

"I served in the United States Navy for 5 long years," says Dominique Wallace, a student at MSU. She know's first hand how hard it can be to transition from the military to the classroom.

"It's a lot of focus. And it's just a completely 360 to go from moving around all the time, in a different country all the time, and then to just be here and to do this--quite a different atmosphere," she says.

Many vets though get lost in the shuffle and can feel overwhelmed.

"It was a little difficult not being a traditional student right out of high school," explains Wallace. "It took a lot of getting used to, to be with people who are a little bit younger than me who have a different lifestyle."

Yet, the MSU Veterans Affairs Office looks to make the jump from service to school easier. April Taack, the Veterans Affairs Coordinator, helps roughly 200 student veterans to understand State and National benefits such as the Montgomery G. I. Bill or the Hazelwood Act. However, not all school benefits help just the veterans themselves.

"Now veterans are able to give it to dependents and that has been extremely well received. Our numbers have grown tremendously here," says Taack.

Numbers that could potentially include Ellen Rudock, whose father is a retired pilot instructor for the Air Force. "It makes me feel pretty excited. I'm excited to go back to school and its awesome that the government is going to pay for it!" she exclaims.

In order for dependents to qualify, veterans must meet certain criteria such as years of service. Those qualifications are what Taack specializes in. "We really strive hard to help the veteran feel at ease and not feel quite as overwhelmed," according to Taack.

Student veterans have also gotten together to form a new group known as the Armed Forces Veteran Organization. It's for vets, by vets, giving those who've served for freedom an opportunity to feel comfortable when getting an education.

"You can just see the excitement of their face and how excited they are to come back and get to do something for themselves and it's a wonderful thing to see," says Taack.

Wallace agrees. "I'm proud of my Navy service, but it's good to be a civilian!"

In the next few days, the armed forces veterans organization will ratify its constitution. Members hope it will become a permanent MSU student institution before the start of the spring semester.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6