By Alex Bacon/The AS Review
When military veterans get home from active duty, they have a few options to consider. Some re-enlist, others enter the workforce and some enroll in colleges and universities.
According to Jana Brost, a counselor for the DisAbility and Awareness Outreach Center, the student veteran population at Western is rising, largely in part to the post-9/11 GI Bill. The number of students that have family members serving in the military is rising as well.
For some veterans who choose to enroll in college or return to finish a degree, the transition isn’t always easy. There are many ways, however, that other students and campus community members can make that transition easier.
“It is always good when students are interested in showing support for veterans on campus,” Paul Wright, the AS Resources Outreach Programs Veteran’s Outreach Center (VOC) coordinator, said.
One way Wright suggests showing support for veterans is to think about what you say before you say it.
“A lot of people in Bellingham are antiwar, which is not a bad thing, but conversations about how terrible the military is ... can sometimes make people that were in the military uncomfortable, or even [feel] unappreciated,” Wright said.
Brost echoed Wright’s suggestion.
“Keep in mind that wherever you are on campus, your words and actions could possibly impact someone,” she said.
“Just as you wouldn’t want to stereotype any population of students, stereotyping student veterans is a guaranteed way to make someone feel uncomfortable and unwelcomed.
“The primary thing is to recognize that every veteran is different, has had different experiences within their service and has a tremendous amount of life experience outside of college. Not every student veteran wants to talk about their experience in the military, so be considerate of that,” said Brost.
One way to show support for veterans is by wearing a wristband that the VOC gives out that says “Veteran Ally.”
According to Wright, a veteran ally is someone who is aware of veteran issues and supports them. A veteran ally could also be someone who is a friend to a veteran or even a family member of one.
The VOC has bracelets available for veterans to wear as well.
Another way you can support veterans is to educate yourself about veteran issues. The VOC offers workshops and events throughout the year and are an opportunity for non-veteran students to learn about issues affecting veterans and to meet student veterans that they go to school with, Wright said.
For more information about how to support veterans, contact the VOC in Viking Union 530.