This post is designed to build my avatar and give you guys a feel for what I have experienced semi-recently that has lead me to where I am today. I think it’s fitting that this is blog post ten, and I graduated in 2010. Our senior class slogan was “One Oh Fo Sho” and my life is definitely no where even close to where I thought I would be, that’s fo sho.
I was originally going to be an Animal Science major/Vet Tech. I was a zookeeper in Wahpeton in 2012 for a year and everything seemed to be working itself out, until I realized that zookeeping was not what I wanted to do forever so I took some time off and decided I wanted to go back to NDSU and finish my English degree starting Spring 2013. I had taken a few classes before I left NDSU but at that point I was so confused with what I wanted to do, I felt it was best to stop spending big money on uncertainty.
I left the zoo and worked a few odd jobs in the Wahpeton area until I could afford to move back up to Fargo. During one of my visits to Fargo to see friends I met some guy that I thought was funny, attractive and I found out we had mutual friends at NDSU. He also told me he was a veteran, but at that point that meant very little to me other than I made him wear his dress uniform once so I could ogle. Eventually, we were Facebook official so, you could say things were pretty serious. After about a year of dating we decided it made sense to move in together. Before meeting Chris, I had never known anyone in the military, let alone a combat veteran, and while we were dating I didn’t notice anything “different”. Not until we were living together did I understand why Chris was worried about living with someone.
Living with a veteran has been a new experience for me, and it has also been a big adjustment for Chris too. I hate to sound too diary-ish but it gives important context to the short story I wrote for Northern Eclecta titled, “The War at Home”. I can’t even describe the life of a student veteran, in my opinion, in complete sentences. I’m not trying to umbrella every student veteran (or veteran) as experiencing the same things as Chris does, but there are 100’s of articles, books and studies on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress D(isorder)-they’re trying to get the D dropped), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and other post-combat related issues that appear for many veterans. I want to note that my experiences are secondhand, and are my own interpretation of what I perceive.
For me it has been snippets: Night-terrors which lead to little sleep. He still has to go to class. College politics leaving students empty handed. Emotions: Guilt. Shame. Intense moments of happiness. Intense moments. Back pain. Counseling. Medications. Alternatives. Veterans Affairs appointments. There are things in our lives that we are hyper-sensitive to because of Chris’s experiences: Fireworks, large crowds, sudden drops on roller coasters, strobe lights, turbulence on flights…
Although things have worked out well for us, I can’t help but think of even just one of the over 400 student veterans on campus who are lonely and dealing with the same things that I know Chris struggles with. These are people who often don’t seek any sort of help because they have a lot of pride, so it is important for them to know there are people available to them and who are there with open arms just to listen, help without judgement and to just be someone who says, “hey, I don’t understand what you’ve been through but I’m here if you need me”. Sometimes that’s all people need. Dating a veteran has given me the opportunity to experience some of the emotions and day-to-say struggles that many other veterans face, and has made me want to be someone who is there to at least listen and be engaged with their stories.
I teach English to veterans, typically older, who want to freshen up or gain skills for returning to school. One of the biggest things I tell them is to be transparent with their professors and let them know of any special requests they may have like not wanting to sit in the front of class or needing to step out in the middle of class if necessary. The former NDSU Veteran’s and Military Services office now is only a certifying office, leaving student veterans to fend for themselves. With little support from administrators and little knowledge throughout the student body as a whole on the effects of post-military life, I find myself wanting to get their story out, students just like us, who offered their lives in exchange to protect ours. The least we can do is stand with them and make sure they are receiving the help they need to succeed. The very least we can strive for everyday is try to not be shitty people and lend a hand, open our hearts and open our ears to the other human beings in our world.