Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass student veterans find comfort in Veteran Services

By Steffi Porter

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Lounging in the Veterans Services’ Drop-in Center on Wednesday afternoon were four University of Massachusetts student veterans, playing computer games, eating lunch and sharing conversation, taking advantage of one of the many resources made available on campus to students who have served in the military.

 

Spending time in the Drop-in Center, located in Whitmore 231, were student veterans, senior Joshua Hume, sophomore Keith Goulet and junior Thomas O’Dougherty, four students who have served in various branches of the U.S. military including the Marines and the Air Force. The students said they appreciate the availability of a place where they can spend time with fellow veterans.

According to Judy Gagnon, coordinator of Veteran Services, UMass is one of the best campuses for veterans, nationally recognized by GI Jobs magazine as one of the most “military-friendly” campuses in the country two years in a row.

“I think students really enjoy it here,” said Gagnon.  “There are some things that are difficult to adjust to coming from the military. They’re older, and the things they’ve seen and done, we can’t even imagine.”

Among available services for veterans is VeteranONE, the new official UMass Registered Student Organization that helps veterans make the transition from soldier to student. ONE stands for Outreach, Networking and Empowerment.

Also available to student veterans is the GI Bill, under which tuition and fees are paid for, and veterans get a housing stipend as well as money for books. The Veteran Services Office also works with Disability Services and Mental Health Services, providing students with the help they need in order to adjust to college life after the military.

Goulet, a former nuclear weapons specialist for the Air Force, says he is only affording college because of the GI Bill, and plans to attend the Second Annual Warrior Breakfast, an event held this morning and sponsored by the Veteran Services Office.

However, Goulet says Veterans Day itself has become difficult due to the number of students asking him questions.

“Honestly for me it just means more hassle,” he said. “It means more people wanting to talk to veterans about things. People always ask you questions, and more so on Veterans Day.”

According to Gagnon, coming to college after serving in the military is often a difficult transition, and that students and professors need to be aware of the different places these particular students are coming from. She compared veterans to any other population dealing with cultural differences because of “where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.”

“I think the biggest adjustment for [veterans] is their peers,” she added. “Being in classes with students who might not understand and may ask really awkward questions like ‘have you ever killed anybody,’ which is the worst thing in the world to ask. These guys are trying to get back into society and fit in.”

Hume – who served as a Marine, and is currently the student government secretary of veterans affairs – said that he did not know anyone when he first came to UMass after serving.

“A lot of veterans from here are from out of state, so I wanted to help build a community for the veterans to help get better situated and socialized and get back into the groove,” said Hume, who likes to organize events with his fellow veterans.

“This place is very important to [the students],” said Gagnon.  “It needs to be bigger though.”

Though Gagnon was unsure of the exact number of student veterans on campus, she said there are over 200 students who identified as veterans when registering as students at UMass.

As Veterans Day approaches, student veterans prepare for multiple events including the Second Annual Warrior Breakfast taking place today at 9:30 a.m. and a vigil today outside Memorial Hall at 4 p.m.

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected].

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