You Served Us, Now Let Us Serve You
We, along with the entire Ohio State University community, are grateful to you and your family members for your service to our country! We understand that transitioning from military service to student life can be both challenging and rewarding. We are dedicated to your success and wish to support your successful navigation of this transition.
Moving from Combat to Academic Zones
Returning home from deployment or service to a college environment produces a unique set of challenges and stresses. Some of these are observable and apparent: you get to pick your own clothes, there aren’t any formations, and camouflage gives way to school colors. Most transitional issues, however, are far more subtle and complex.
- Difficulty relating to students who don’t share your values or life experience. Age differences and “trivial” student concerns like grades, parties, and joining organizations seldom have the same significance to veterans, who are often more mature and focused on the mission of graduation.
- Navigating the cultural differences between the military and higher education bureaucracies (e.g., knowing the rules and mores of the campus, where to go to get things done, how to address professors and others in positions of authority).
- Feeling safe on campus (e.g., choosing classroom seats that allow for monitoring of others and rapid escape, such as sitting with their back to the wall and near a door).
- Reintegrating with your family (e.g. being a parent, daughter, and partner). As much as you love them, your military service and deployment has probably changed you in a manner that’s difficult to understand.
These issues, when coupled with the challenges related to returning to general civilian life, place returning veteran students at higher risk of dropping out.
Suggestions for a Successful Transition
Fortunately, there are a number of steps that veterans can take to put their military experience into perspective and regain a sense of control and normalcy. Among the recommendations to facilitate a successful transition to civilian and academic lives are:
- Establish and maintain relationships with fellow students and college faculty/ staff. Clubs and organized activities can break down walls between you and others having different life experiences but similar interests.
- Work to reestablish relationships and renegotiate roles with family members. Changes in the family structure occur during the deployment period, which lead to unanticipated challenges, even when families are excited about reuniting. Veterans and family members must reexamine how responsibilities will be divided and communicate openly about roles they want or do not want to play.
- Understand that emotional control requires both holding in and expressing emotions. Contrary to some military norms, showing emotion does not indicate weakness and is critical to developing personal relationships in civilian life.
- Develop good academic habits. Start with a manageable course load and set reasonable goals. Go to class and take comprehensive notes to improve focus on course materials and lectures. Establish a daily schedule to maximize organization.
- Pay attention to physical well-being. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest, and build physical activity into daily life.
- Limit use of alcohol and illegal substances. Use of these substances increases the likelihood of depression, insomnia, relationship problems, academic difficulties, legal troubles and a host of other negative issues.
- Appreciate a sense of humor in yourself and others. Humor relieves stress, produces body chemicals that improve mood, and helps us to gain a more balanced perspective.
- Prepare an answer to questions about your war experience. Most veterans have some difficulty sharing what happened in combat and the toll that those experiences had on them. Prepare a brief response for acquaintances and a lengthier answer for close family members and friends.
- Connect with other veterans. Veterans often report that the friendship and support of other veterans is critical to effectively transitioning to civilian life and college.
- Grieve for and honor those who did not make it back. It is important and necessary to grieve for lost friends and work through the emotions that are understandably attached to these losses. Work to live a life worthy of the ultimate sacrifice made by fallen comrades.
Signs That Counseling Might Be Helpful
While most returning veterans successfully return to civilian life, as many as one in three (33%) experience a serious psychological, physical, or spiritual problem related to their service. These issues typically diminish as time passes and they adjust to civilian life. However, when symptoms and reactions last for more than a month or interfere with daily life and functioning, professional treatment may be helpful. Among the signs that a returning veteran is experiencing a significant problem that may require professional counseling assistance are:
- Recurring and intrusive memories and/or dreams of combat.
- Acting or feeling as if a past traumatic event was happening in the moment.
- Intense distress after exposure to sensory events or items (e.g., trash bags in the roadway, potholes, certain foods, smells or clothing) related to combat
- Feeling emotionally distant, detached, and/or estranged from others.
- Difficulty having or expressing a full range of emotions.
- Sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., not expecting to live to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span).
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or needing drugs or alcohol to get to sleep
- Suicidal thoughts, feelings, or behavior.
- Frequent experiences of irritability, anger, and/or rage.
- Always feeling on guard, paranoid, or on edge even when you know you are safe
- Being easily startled by noises and movements.
- Abuse of alcohol and drugs.
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
- Guilt or anger at oneself for being unable to prevent the death of others or committing a perceived error that resulted in harm or death.
One or more of the above signs can significantly interfere with academic performance, daily functioning, motivation, relationships, and general enjoyment of life.
During the period of their service, military personnel are often reluctant to utilize mental health services for fear of appearing 'weak' and/or negatively impacting their military career (e.g., potential loss of promotions, security clearances, etc.), especially because their confidentiality is not assured. Civilian counseling experiences are bound by higher standards of confidentiality so most things will remain private.
The earlier veterans seek professional counseling, the greater the likelihood that their issues will be resolved and that their academic and personal goals will be achieved.
IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN CRISIS:
- Veterans Crisis Line: A 24/7 resource for veterans to call, text, or internet chat with Department of Veterans Affairs responders. 800.273.8255 (Press “1” for English, “2” for Spanish).
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(1-800-273-8255)
- National 24/7 Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
- Columbus, OH Suicide Hotline: (614) 221-5445
- For immediate LOCAL after hours support:
- NetCare Access (614) 276-2273 OR OSU Hospital Emergency Department (614) 293-8333
OSU and Local Resources
- OSU Student Veteran Lounge: Room 1132 A, Smith Laboratory, Building 065, 174 W 18th Ave, Columbus, OH 43210(online map). NOTE: BUCKID required for entry. For more information, email Mike Forrest, Office of Veteran and Military Students, at email@example.com.
- OSU Veterans’ House: A homelike housing option for students who are veterans, active duty, reserves, and National Guard. The house is located three blocks from campus and was recently renovated in September 2011 (click here for photos). Single and double occupancy furnished rooms with a 10 or 12 month contract are available.
State of Ohio Resources
- Military Injury Relief Fund (MIRF) A program through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services which provides grants to Ohio service members injured during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation New Dawn. The intent is to partly help returning injured veterans and their families make ends meet upon a veteran's return home
- Veteran and Eligible Spouse Employment Services: This program offers employment and training services designed to assist veterans and eligible spouses who are unable to obtain employment through basic services.
- Ohio Veterans’ Bonus: For active duty personnel and honorably discharged veterans who were Ohio residents at the beginning of their time in service.
- Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center, Columbus, OH: Provides medical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, support for homeless rehabilitation counseling and benefits consultation to qualified veterans.
- Seamless Transition Home: Transition Assistance Information for Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom Veterans
- Veterans’ Self-Help and Coping Center: Provides information on managing stress reactions and what to expect following a traumatic event.
- National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD): Affiliated with the VA, the NCPTSD aims to advance the clinical care and social welfare of veterans through research, education and training on PTSD and stress-related disorders. However, this site also contains many resources for readjustment to civilian life.
- Reintegration Guide for Servicemembers and Families
- Readjustment Counseling Services: This Veterans Administration site provides tools to locate nearby veterans centers, which provide free counseling for most combat veterans
- Wounded Warrior Project Resource Center: Call Center and trained specialists who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by phone at 1-800-342-9647 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Help for Homeless Veterans: 24/7 VA Hotline for Homeless Veterans. 877.424.3838
Books of Interest:
- Down Range: To Iraq and Back, by Bridget Cantrell and Chuck Dean
- Courage After Fire, by Keith Armstrong, Suzanne Best, and Paula Domenici
- At Ease, Soldier! By Gayle Rozantine
(links and information current as of 17 June 2014)