Updated: September 7, 2013 6:02AM
D ear Abby: This letter is for “Torn in Milford, Conn.” (May 16). I returned to college after 20 years of active duty and know firsthand how difficult the transition can be. Most universities have a veterans’ service office where he might be able to connect with students with similar backgrounds and experiences to his. There should also be chapters of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars where he can meet others.
I was fortunate that the university I attended (at age 45) had a dorm floor specifically for “nontraditional” students like me. In classes, I was able to make friends because my unique experiences enabled me to connect to the material in ways younger students could not, and by sharing those connections, people got to know me. Starting over — starting something new — is always difficult, but no education is ever wasted.
If he does want to explore a career in security, “Torn” should take a part-time job while attending school to help cover expenses; universities always need highly skilled employees, and university towns are filled with venues that require such skills. That being said, a diploma will get him further in his future.
I’m concerned that there may be more going on with “Torn” than just that he/she doesn’t fit in with peers in school. Being a combat vet and feeling disconnected from peers or having a desire to return to what they knew before (security work) is a sign of PTSD. Missing work is often “code” for survivor’s guilt. (“If I could go back and make it right, perhaps my buddy would be here, or I would be with my buddy.”)
There are services available for vets suffering from PTSD if they recognize the need to reach out for them. Also, if this vet is using his/her educational benefits, then the chances of there being a training plan to help in readjustment is likely.
Vet Who Made It Through
Dear Abby: I am a longtime college professor. Many bright students, young and old, have similar complaints. “Torn,” you sound like a great student, as many vets are. Try evening classes. They’re usually available to any enrolled student and are the same courses taught in day sections. Students enrolled in these classes are mostly working adults who are more dedicated.
See if your college has online courses, so you won’t have to deal with the students in person, although you may have to take part in online discussions. Check out your college’s career services office and find a part-time job. This will give you a different peer group, plus give you some experience in your field. Your college’s veterans’ office may also have helpful resources for you.
I hope these ideas will help your college experience to be more pleasant and productive.
Dr. M. In Oklahoma City
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