Serving and returning

Panel discussion shows obstacles faced by returning veterans

The hardships faced by military personnel returning to school after serving in the military are understood by few who haven’t experienced it themselves.

The Political Engagement Project at FSU is sponsoring “Why We Serve,” an informal panel discussion taking place on Feb. 23 which gives students the chance to ask veteran students questions about their time serving and their experiences adjusting to college. The event is taking place to help celebrate President’s Week.

Connie Meinholdt, moderator for the event and FSU psychology professor, has witnessed the difficulties those who serve undergo when they return to school.

“I have military veterans, National Guard members or ROTC cadets in nearly every class,” said Meinholdt. “Some are mature and well-informed about the world and are excellent students. However, a few struggle.”

Meinholdt has had veterans open up and talk to her about some of their experiences.
“I recall one student who was in combat in Iraq then in my class two weeks later. He talked with me about difficulty concentrating (among other things),” said Meinholdt. “I realized I needed to know more about veteran students’ experiences, their transition from the structured military service with sometimes life and death circumstances, to the unstructured academic life where learning class material may seem trivial in comparison. The more I know, the better I can recognize and help students succeed.”

Meinholdt explained that the panel is set up to be informal; she will begin by introducing members of the panel and asking them a few questions. Then she will solicit questions from audience members.

“The event’s purpose is to have military service members share their stories and experiences with the American public,” said Meinholdt. “After all, they serve to protect us and our country.”

Among the panel members is FSU automotive management major Adam Cline. Cline was in the Army, stationed in Germany for four years, and completed a tour in Iraq which lasted 15 months.

“It is important for students to attend because many people in our society are unaware of what it is like to transition from a soldier to a civilian,” said Cline. “It is a big change. Most only hear about what it is like to go from a civilian to a soldier, so this event presents an opportunity to look at the situation from a different perspective.”

Another member of the panel is Cory Buter, junior in criminal justice law enforcement. Buter is part of the Michigan Army National Guard along with ROTC.

“This event will be important for people to see because many students and staff do not realize some of the hardships that come along with being in the military and attending college. There are unique challenges that will be discussed,” said Buter. “On the flip-side, many don’t know of the great benefits and experiences that the military offers. Regardless of the branch, the U.S. military offers a lot.”

Buter believes that students who attend will have an opportunity to get an inside look at what military life is really like.

“This panel will have current and retired personnel from multiple branches offering a wide selection of information and experiences that will be discussed. It will be a great learning experience for anyone in attendance,” said Buter.

Meinholdt has spoken with many of her students who have returned from serving their country. Each student offers incredible stories of their experiences.

“It makes me better at my job to be informed about what goes on in the world – and some of my veteran students have told me amazing stories about their service experiences,” said Meinholdt. “I had one student who was in the 2003 invasion force going into Iraq. We talked a lot about guys in his unit and how they reacted to incoming scud missiles or throngs of Iraqi kids running up to them for candy. I think he liked having someone to talk to about his service experience and I like listening.”

“Why We Serve” is free and open to the public. It will take place on Feb. 23 in the Rankin Center Dome Room from 7 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, contact Vickie Streeter at n