South Puget Sound Community College Social Science Professor and Navy veteran Eric Chase works to establish a new veterans club with several SPSCC veteran students.
On Nov. 7, the first meeting was held to discuss further progress of the club. Right now they are in the process of filling out the official forms for starting the club on campus.
Chase wants the club to be a judgment free space for veterans from all different generations. As the faculty advisor he hopes to form a group in which no one has to explain themselves and their time in the military.
One important function of the club will be to help veterans transition into their education. He hopes that the club can show veterans where financial aid, the library, the writing center, and other resources are to help them throughout their education.
“The big thing that a lot of vets have talked to me about is that they don’t want to all be sitting around having this big gripe session,” said Chase. “They could do that over beers in a bar someplace, they don’t need a student club for that.”
Something that has been commonly brought up to Chase is to ensure that the club doesn’t function as a tool for recruiters. Most veterans don’t want to be targeted by the military through the club for reenlistment.
According to Chase, campus counselors and veteran services do an exceptional job with assisting student veterans in any way that they can.
He also said that Director of the Diversity and Equity Center Eileen Yoshina plays a large role in welcoming all students despite their different situations, including veterans.
Yoshina’s work is “more than symbolic, it is really practical and helpful for people to feel they are a part of this community,” said Chase.
On Nov. 9 a luncheon was held to honor veterans on campus. According to Yoshina the most important function of this luncheon is to give veterans an opportunity to connect with one another.
Yoshina said that there is a high level of interest on campus in creating more groups and services committed to assisted veterans. Right now it is just a matter of who is able to make the time commitment to take a leadership position in one of these efforts.
Another way DEC has honored Veterans Day in the past is by providing a backpack full of rocks that could be decorated and displayed by student and faculty. The backpack and rocks are a metaphor for the burden that veterans carry when coming back from war.
According to Yoshina the rocks were a “symbolic gesture to say ‘I’m here to lighten the load’.”
Josh Williams is a veteran and has been a student at SPSCC since winter quarter 2011. He was formally in the army and also previously worked in law enforcement.
At SPSCC he is studying environmental science, and plans to transfer to The Evergreen State College to earn a Masters in Science.
Williams decided to go into the higher education system after years in the workforce. After leaving the army he dedicated two years to a career as a corrections officer. Currently, the only veteran service Williams is taking advantage of is the G.I. Bill, a form of financial aid for students who served in the military.
After taking a U.S. government class with Chase he began talking with him about starting a Veterans Club on campus.
Williams is interested in the club as a new resource for veteran students on campus and is very interested in seeing assistance with tutoring services offered.
One idea he wants to see the club look into is reduced tutoring rates for veterans, for those with financial hardship.
He also wants the club to help in forming an environment for camaraderie and discussion amongst veterans on campus.
“Most soldiers have a common bond, like brothers and sisters almost,” said Williams.
Todd Sheppard is no longer an active duty veteran and has been a student at SPSCC for almost two years. He will be graduating with an Associate of Arts and is interested in both geology and environmental science.
He enrolled at SPSCC after the post 9/11 G.I. Bill came into effect.
Sheppard has been working as the student leader of the group and strongly believes that the club could help veterans on campus.
Sheppard said that although Mary Davis, program coordinator for veteran educational benefits, does an excellent job of helping veterans, more help is needed with providing services to those students.
Coming from a highly “regimented” background in the military Sheppard understands that it can be difficult to transition into a school environment where you need to gather a lot of essential information on your own.
“We lose a lot of people every year in war and they’re just names, they’re not people to anyone else but their family and friends,” said Sheppard.
He believes the best way to honor Veterans’ Day would to simply get students talking to veterans on campus and recognizing more of the people behind military forces in our country.
For information about the veterans club, to join or be involved, contact Eric Chase at firstname.lastname@example.org