I recently wrote a story about how West Virginia University is now offering veteran-only classes.
I started this story because I’m interested in veterans and finding out their stories and I thought this was a great thing WVU was doing. But, as it evolved I learned more about the minds of student vets that I had no idea about.
I interviewed a student vet named Jake Lambuth. He told me more about the mind-set that student veterans have as they walk through campus. I think its crazy the differences in a student veteran and an average student, even with tasks as simple as walking to class.
As the average student walks to and from class they are generally worried about homework they have due, or what their significant other is doing, or are just simply staring at the ground trying to make it back to their bed to take a nap. When a student veteran walks through campus, and one who has been in war or in danger, they are taking in every student they pass. They look at who is a target, and who isn’t. They are trying to detect danger around them, and who they need to protect if something happens. Unfortunately, at some schools, student veterans have been hassled, and called names, feeling even more unwelcome to a place already difficult to fall into.
Talking to Jake, he taught me that things can always be worse. It seems I have thought before about how “hard” things can be with school etc, but imagine being in Iraq. These people live lives a little harder than the stress of having a lot of homework. And, these students live like that everyday, fighting memories war. Jake told me that even sometimes when he hears his friends playing Call of Duty he will tense up and needs to leave.
On a seperate note, getting interviews for this story was a bit of a task. Terry Miller, the veteran advocate with the WVU Veteran Center, said he doesn’t usually talk to journalism students and it wasn’t until I explained there was a possibility of publication and also that I was a senior that he agreed to talk to me. It might have also been because I stalked his office, and his secretaries started begging him for me as well. He told me he talked to a man from Cleveland University who started a S.E.R.V program at Cleveland. Miller adopted the idea of the veteran-only classes from that program.
I love writing stories like this. Stories that matter to me, and stories that I come out of with new information, and a new outlook.
Please feel free to read my story.