A look into Georgia State’s veteran community

Illustration by Tammy Huynh | The Signal Archives

Five days prior to the 36th Annual Atlanta Veterans Day Parade in Downtown Atlanta, the university’s Jean Beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics lined up two events to give students a glimpse into the veteran community around Georgia State.

Earlier this week former army ranger and author of the 2015 book “The Reaper: Autobiography of One of the Deadliest Special Ops Snipers” Nick Irving visited Georgia State to lead a panel discussing the struggles of returning to civilian life after being at war, a struggle that student veterans often may be all too familiar with.

Irving spent six years in the Army’s Special Operations Third Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. He was the first African-American to serve as a sniper in his platoon, working from demolitions assaulter to Master Sniper.

He was serving in Iraq in 2009 when his friends were killed by enemy fire.

Irving provided a plethora of insight and advice to students considering joining the army and highly suggested talking to several people before making a final decision.

“I’ve seen one too many 18-year-old kids get shot,” Irving said. He added that while he understands wanting to enlist in order to serve your country, it is important to remember that going into combat can change a person.

“It takes a piece of you, just be wary of that,” he told the crowd. 

Being a veteran on campus 

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, passed in 2008, is a benefit program for veterans serving after Sept. 10, 2001. The bill covers 100 percent of in-state public tuition and fee coverage, monthly housing allowance, up to $1,000 in books and supplies, and eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program, a program that adds available funds to your education for those who choose to attend a private or out of state school.

According to director of Department of Military Outreach Mark Eister, universities saw an influx of veterans and active military members applying for college after the passing of the bill.

“A lot of veteran students are on campus because of the Post-9/11 bill, and they are often culture-shocked,” said Eister.

“One of the most common struggles student veterans face is finding common ground with their peers,” Military Outreach student advocate David Garcia said. Garcia’s job includes connecting students with resources available to them throughout campus. The Student Veteran Association is the leading organization at Georgia State that provides veterans with counseling and readjustment.

A common problem soldiers face when they return home is readjusting to civilian life according to Irving. Irving said the military could do a better job in devoting time for helping soldiers get reintegrated back into the routine they had before being deployed.

“We were civilians first,” said Irving. “Coming home reminds us of who we are.”