November 23, 2017

Webster Student Veterans Organization works to combat vets’ isolation on campus

Students look left and right for a break in traffic to make their quick jog across the busy road at the stoplight between Edgar and Garden. Cory Krassinger, however, waits patiently for the walk sign to appear, then makes his way across. Krassinger is a veteran and describes this everyday occurrence as one example of the disorganization that comes with college life.

“It drives me nuts,” Krassinger said. “[Veterans] come from a place where you don’t do that, because you don’t want to get yelled at.”   

Krassinger said the biggest adjustments for veterans pursuing a college education post-service is getting used to the disorganization coming out of the strict demands of their military training.

“Since I’m technically a freshman, all the people I’m in class with are 18,” Krassinger said. “They like to remind me that it’s 5 years until I’m 30, and when I was in Afghanistan they were 13.”

Krassinger said veterans often feel out of place taking introductory college courses five-plus years after attending high school. Veteran life in college is different from the average college student attending right after high school. Some veterans have full-time jobs and families of their own outside their college education.

He said it is irritating when students in his classes disrespect the professor by playing on their phone or creating a distraction in the classroom. Responsibility and a strict understanding of respect are values Krassinger said he brought from his military service to attending college.

“People are trying to learn their job for the future and you’re here screwing it up and not caring,” Krassinger said. “If you did that in the army while someone was teaching a class, especially if they outrank you, then you would just be doing push-ups for the rest of your life.”

Krassinger is the treasurer of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) on campus. The group exists to combat isolation for veterans by providing a space for them to hang out, do homework and simply unwind from the stress of college life. This space resides at 200 Hazel Ave, in the Veterans Resource Center.

Krassinger said talking to friends and family about his experience in the military can be difficult. He said communication amongst other veterans can also be difficult. Each veteran has a unique experience during their service career varying in details from location to how their unit was organized.

“Even though [family and friends] don’t understand, they still want to talk,” Krassinger said. “But it’s hard to see that from [veterans’] point of view. [Family and friends] might not get it, but they still care. [Veterans] kind of just assume that no one cares or understands what they’re talking about so they just keep it inside.”

Chris Fuller, president of SVO, said isolation is a big factor in veterans post-service life. He said veterans need a break from the military environment and need to be away from conversations and reminders of serving while adjusting to civilian life. He said this isolation can be both accidental and intentional.

“You’ve got an identity adjustment coming out of uniform now that you used to be known as your rank or service you were affiliated with,” Fuller said. “Now all of the sudden that’s changed.”

According to SVO’s mission statement, the organization represents a transition from military to college life, with veteran students gathering with their peers for a sense of camaraderie experienced while serving in the armed forces.

“We want to combat that isolation by making this facility an open and welcoming place,” Fuller said.  “We can be with each other, and be friends, and monitor each other’s well-being.”

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