Vets work towards increasing campus resources

On Nov. 6 the Center for Student Veterans had its grand opening. Located in South Morse Hall, Room 434. This new center serves for student veterans to learn, study and connect with others. 

The Student Veteran Association is working to provide better resources for all campus veterans, including students, faculty, staff and those not involved with the SVA.

“I’ve been contacted by administrators and I’ve talked to them, personally, but that’s the thing I think sometimes misses the mark,” said Houston Clearwater, SVA president. “The mark is that it’s not about me. It’s not, it never was, and it never has been. It’s about veterans on campus.”

One key goal he hopes to work towards is having a staff position to serve as a liaison between campus veterans and administration.

“That veterans liaison is such a key position for us,” Clearwater said. “That is something that we’re really trying to make happen if possible. On top of that, it adds value for the university. The university can use a veterans liaison as a recruiter as well.”

Having someone to serve as a recruiter would also help bring in federal funding, according to Clearwater.

“Whenever you recruit veteran affiliated students, that comes with a federally backed guarantee,” Clearwater said. “The GI bill (would be) coming into the community, as well as having more veterans on campus, (which) I think is always a good thing. There’s a great diversity between veterans and adding diversity is always a plus.”

Echoing similar thoughts, Sarah Johnson, SVA faculty advisor and ESU librarian, said a single point person would also be beneficial to help incoming veteran students make the transition between active duty and starting college.

“I think they need one point person that can help them navigate the entire college experience from that moment where they’re thinking about coming to ESU until they graduate,” Johnson said. “While the website does have all of these contacts, that’s a lot of individual people that a veteran needs to reach out to.”

The culture shock can make that transition especially difficult, according to Johnson.

“And if there were one person that could help them navigate that, and maybe set up appointments for them, I think that would be huge,” Johnson said. “It really is a culture shock going from the military straight to college, it is unbelievably uncomfortable.”

Clearwater said he hopes to create a welcoming environment by adding additional resources or campus Veterans.

“I want to grow the organization and I want to create a—the biggest goal and driver for me, at least as a president—is to create an environment where veterans, where we, can transition from the active duty or maybe even a guard or wherever it may be into being a student successfully,” Clearwater said. “It’s a really hard transition for a lot of us. I know it was really hard for me, speaking from my own perspective. That transition was hard. It wasn’t easy.”

For Clearwater, having a community of people who’ve shared similar experiences as him has proved to be indispensable resource.

“I know there’s a lot of identity that’s tied up in when you’re in the military,” Clearwater said. “A lot of people struggle with that, and I even struggled with it myself. Having a community of veterans there that have dealt with the same thing that I have...it’s an invaluable resource to have that community.”

One of Johnson’s goals for the SVA is to work on recruiting new members, as many current ones are preparing to graduate.

“We need to work more on recruiting,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of students that are going to be graduating. A lot of our point people are going to be graduating. We need some new veterans to come in and take on some leadership positions. We have a strong, solid foundation of students that participate actively, but we always need more help.”

As the founding town of Veterans Day, ESU takes the day off, and Johnson said it’s important to be aware of the emotions the day may bring up.

“I would say just to be aware and conscious of the week and events that are going on,” Johnson said. “A lot of the time, we get empty ‘Thank yous.’ I think he’s always nice, but it’s also nice if you share something with us or ask questions. Don’t just say ‘Thank you for your service’ and then that’s it. Just be conscious of what you’re saying there’s a lot of emotions that come up around Veterans Day.”

Clearwater said he’s glad the Alumni Foundation is playing a large role in this years Veterans Day festivities.

“I see a lot of involvement from the Foundation,” Clearwater said. “The Foundation puts on tons of events, (like the) flag ceremony. They’re heading up a ribbon cutting for our new veterans center that we had. Like I said, they’re doing a lot of events. They’re pushing a lot of things.”

Last Saturday, the Foundation hosted a ribbon cutting for the new SVA lounge, located on the fourth floor of South Morse Hall, room 434.

“Thanks to ESU and administration, (they were) really able to play a part in making this,” Johnson said. “Without facilities, none of this would have really been completed. The way that they were able to team up with the third party funding that we acquired (for the new veterans lounge).”

While many veterans are non-traditional students, Clearwater said to not be scared of them and to just start a conversation with them.

“We’re not scary, I promise you,” Clearwater said. “Some of us might look that way, I know a lot of us have beards and are older and we might talk a lot more in class than other people, but we have a lot of experiences and just come up and talk to us. We’re human beings too.”

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