This weekend launches Summer 2013 full force. BBQ grills are hot, pools are cold and the beer is colder.
It is a long weekend for many in the work force and virtually everyone who is connected to education. It’s also a Holiday many of today’s students don’t understand or can’t trace a direct connection to.
Less than 1% of Americans have a served in the United States Armed Forces in the past decade. This is significant because it is also the period of the longest sustained combat in US History. The gap between civilians and military grows along with the number of Millenials who have a direct connection with someone who has served.
A poll of the VPM Millenials revealed only, “grandparents”served in some capacity. Similarly, there was some confusion over the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Our resident Wolverine Community Manager consulted the Google machine for verification on what they guessed the difference was exactly.
There are 6,713 American service men and women casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And the Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran’s Association claims there are over 600,000 vets who have filed for disability based on wartime injuries.
So we should certainly be thankful this Memorial Day all those returning vets are not being mourned this Holiday. We should also be looking to Higher Ed for unique and specific ways to welcome them back into the University setting. Most of them have a GI Bill benefit of some type to help cover the costs of tuition. Some of them may have grants or scholarships.
All of them need help assimilating back into a culture that understands very little about where they come from or what they have faced.
And Higher Ed, you’re failing them. If a program exists, please let me know in the comments or by email. I’d love to interview you and blog about it here at Verge Pipe Media.
I’m not talking about your obligatory website filled with links to government and Veteran’s Administration web pages – I’m talking about cutting edge, cohesion programs that help with class scheduling, mentoring, buddy systems, special advisors and resources that ensure these extraordinary students start and finish their college or professional degree.
But these students aren’t looking for your pity. In fact, they probably show up expecting to go it alone. Outside of the Higher Ed setting, veterans are more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed. Roughly one of ten small businesses are veteran owned.
Clearly, this is a group who values getting things done. As a team? Certainly. Alone? If need be.
Keep in mind administrators, these students know teamwork, sacrifice, dedication to mission and leadership at a level that will challenge your most stalwart tenured professors. They’re not showing up asking for it to be easier, in fact they’re not showing up asking for anything other than the same chance your other students are.
The challenge to Higher Ed is this: turn today’s returning warriors into tomorrow’s public service and industry leaders. It took me far too long to find a University who is doing more than the aforementioned link filled webpage. Here are three who (at first glance), appear to be doing more:
Kansas State – The Veterans Center exists to aid in the transition from active duty military service to postsecondary education by providing a centralized, coordinated effort to comprehensively meet the needs of veterans and military-afﬁliated students at the University.
Purdue University - Through research and outreach, the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) works closely with collaborators to improve the lives of service members and their families in Indiana and across the country. NOTE: they go on to list out 5 broad goals of the Institute.
Cornell University - The Military Families Project is an integrated education/research project that is investigating the ability of a multi-generational Civic Ecology Education program to help communities deal with the stress of the military deployment cycle.
You can see these are all noble missions. You can also see the emphasis on the service member and their families. They also touch on the impact to the larger community with the stress of continued deployments.
The opportunity exists to establish a Center or Institute at your University to fill the need through outreach, research or outright assistance to our returning veterans. You can do more than a simple webpage. You can do more to create loyalty to your institution by tapping into a group that understands loyalty in ways the larger population doesn’t.
Don’t let the real meaning of Memorial Day fade into just another holiday on your campus. This is where you can go above and beyond and recruit and retain some of the best, brightest and most deserving of America’s sons and daughters.
Author’s note: Don Crow enlisted in the US Army Reserves as a Cannoneer (13B). After completing ROTC, he served with distinction in the 1st Armored Division with deployments to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and three tours in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the NATO Implementation and Stability Forces. His last assignment was Company Commander, C Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry. He is now a proud lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and a cheerleader for Veterans assistance programs in Education and Entrepreneurship.