There are many avenues to support our troops while they're on duty, working, and fighting for our country, but there seems to be a disconnect once the troops return home.
According to the 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), "student veterans attending four-year colleges and universities in the United States generally perceive lower levels of campus support than nonveterans, and they also interact less often with faculty members."
Although the resources are available, oftentimes veterans are unaware of the options and support available at the University at Buffalo. In fact, there are only a handful of active members this semester in the UB Military Members Association, an organization dedicated to "veteran scholarship, service to the community and camaraderie," according to the association's website.
"According to the Veterans' Office, there are over 400 people receiving benefits for the GI bill," said Melissa Amacher, a senior psychology major, president of the UB Military Members Association, an intern at Wellness Education Services, and a veteran herself. "My goal is partly to raise awareness that UB is doing something for veterans."
In addition to the aforementioned activities, the group holds social events, regular meetings, and participates in intramural athletics and veteran awareness. According to Amacher, many veterans are non-traditional students who encounter quite a change-of-pace when returning to civilian life and a university.
"Everything is very rigid [in the military]. From the time you go to basic training, you know your career progression. Even things like how to take a blood pressure have a manual," Amacher said. "You know what to expect; you need to be there on time. It's very structured. People are looking out for you; you have mentors."
Upon returning to college, the comparative lack of structure can be a difficult change to adjust to. Additionally, sometimes veterans face health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which can make such an adjustment even more difficult. However, such hurdles can be overcome.
"What people don't understand about the military is you just have that bond. It doesn't really matter that I was there in 2003 and you were there in 2008," Amacher said. "There are things that veterans wouldn't feel comfortable talking about with people who haven't been over there…. You just can't comprehend certain things."
This club serves not only as a place to meet and work with other veterans, but also as a place to gather information and support.
"The VA [Medical Center] has special programs for people who have gone overseas, so for someone who didn't know how to enroll in that or enroll in their medical care in the VA, I'd like to be able to help," Amacher said. "You get intimidated to seek out your benefits, and it's just nice to have someone to call."
UB is a Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) institutional member, which means that the university functions in cooperation with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the military services to help meet the higher education needs of service members, according to the Veterans Affairs website. UB also participates in the Concurrent Admissions Program (ConAP), which is a joint program with the Army Recruiting Command. ConAP hopes to increase the college enrollment of veterans and reservists and help those interested in attending college, but who must postpone enrollment usually due to financial reasons.