USF welcomes veterans with new program

Returning to campus after serving for the armed forces can be a big transition, and as USFs student veteran population continues to grow, a new program announced Wednesday will attempt to make the transition a little easier.

From dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder to learning to adapt to a classroom environment after years away, Office of Veteran Services director Larry Braue said the Got your 6 program will offer free, non-academic classes designed to teach faculty and staff how to help veterans succeed in school and create other means of support networks for student veterans. The first classes begin March 28, with classes scheduled every two weeks thereafter.

Were going to be there to support our veterans both academically and personally, Braue said. We are going to educate (faculty and staff) on military culture and all the struggles and pitfalls a lot of our veterans face when they come back, just adapting to the civilian and campus culture.

Braue said the Got your 6 program, part of a national effort by Student Veterans of America (SVA), got its name from a military term of the same name. He said 6 refers to the number on the clock, which, on the battlefield, means a persons back in other words, the university wants student veterans to know its got their backs.

Braue said the program will help students switch from battle mode to study mode.

Its a moral obligation we have here at the university to help them succeed on campus, he said.

During the presentation of the program, Braue showed a video of USF President Judy Genshaft expressing her support of the program and student veterans.

By creating a support network here on campus, we demonstrate in word and deed how much we truly appreciate our veterans sacrifices for our nation, Genshaft said in
the video.

Following the video of Genshaft, guest speaker Michael Dakduk, executive director of SVA nationally, shared his support of USFs programs for veterans.

Dakduk said USF is one of the now more than 700 universities expanding veteran services, which only a handful of universities were doing about five years ago.

Its about supporting one another, Dakduk said. Its about bringing that sense of camaraderie and community.

Dakduk said the U.S. government predicts more than a million members of the armed forces will return to civilian life over the next five years.

Dakduk then segued into the documentary, The Welcome, presented by USFs SVA chapter a documentary based on the experiences of 24 veterans who returned home to Oregon, where they underwent a healing retreat on Memorial Day in 2008. By sharing their experiences, the veterans in the film recuperated from memories of bombs, enemies and those lost in battle.

Its interesting to see what programs they are doing for veterans this time around, James Bond, a veteran of the United States Army, said.

Bond served in the armed forces between 1981 and 1987 abroad, like his iconic namesake.

When he returned home after serving in the military, he was hit by a drunk driver and lost one of his legs.

Bond said he and many veterans felt they werent helped by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs until recent legislation like the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Bond said though he was a veteran, he had to wait more than 10 years after his accident before he could receive funding for a prosthetic leg.

Vietnam vets coming back had to wait 30 years before getting the help they needed, Bond said. I want to make sure these new kids just coming back from the armed forces are getting the help they deserve.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been modified from its original version.