The shift from military life overseas to civilian life as a student can be overwhelming, TCU Student Veteran Organization President John Hughes said.
Hughes, who served in both the Persian Gulf and the Iraq wars with the Navy and the Marines, said many veterans struggle to adjust to life outside the military, especially in school.
“You really realize what it means to be a veteran when you get out and you come to college,” Hughes said.
Hughes, 28, said understanding how different civilian culture is and being 10 years older than some students can be scary.
“I’ve been shot at [and] I’ve survived IED (improvised explosive device) blasts, but one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had in my life was going to Frog Camp,” Hughes said.
Most veterans miss the sense of unity, fellowship and camaraderie they feel in the military once they experience civilian life, Hughes, a junior criminal justice major, said.
Through TCUSVO, Hughes said he hopes to minimize that lack of unity by creating a fraternity-like environment and maintaining military values like honor, courage and commitment.
“This is a real fraternity because we all took an oath willing to take a bullet for a stranger, and that is something I hold sacred,” Hughes said.
Another focus of the TCUSVO is to help inform the TCU community about veterans and vice versa, Hughes said.
Thinking he was better than other students due to his military service was the biggest mistake Hughes made his first year at TCU, but he has since changed his mindset, he said.
“We have a different kind of baggage and emotional trends, but we’re just as important as a traditional, 18-year-old student,” Hughes said. “And they’re just as important as us.”
The TCUSVO has been accepted as an official chapter of the Student Veterans of America.
According to the SVA website, SVA is an organization focused on providing “military veterans with the resources, support and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.”
Elvis Verduzco, who served with the Army for three years, said he has benefited from TCUSVO.
“[TCUSVO] does help build a sense of community,” Verduzco, a sophomore finance major, said.
One way TCUSVO helps support veterans is providing a lounge they can use while they are on campus, Hughes said.
Verduzco, who spent 18 months in Iraq, compared the SVO lounge to a patrol base in the military.
“This [lounge] helps with the transition,” Verduzco said. “You are amongst the students, but then you have a point of reference where you can come back and, as you’re doing your homework, you can share with [your] comrades.”
Hughes said people have many misconceptions about veterans, and he hopes to “kill” those false perceptions.
“Everybody watches movies and thinks they know what it means to be a veteran,” he said.
Hughes said there are about 100 members, and anyone is welcome to join the organization, not just veterans.
TCUSVO is planning fundraisers and community projects to raise awareness of the organization and hopes to educate faculty, staff and students about veterans, Hughes said.
Landon Woods, the public relations officer for TCUSVO, served with the Marines and spent seven months in Iraq. He said he hopes the organization will help other students understand that veterans are here for the same reason—to get an education.
“What we would like people to understand is that we’re just like them,” Woods, a junior political science major, said. “We’re out now. We’re done with the military, [and] we’ve done our time. Now, we just want to get educated like everyone else.”
Hughes said meetings allowed the organization to cover a multitude of topics and also served as a way for the veterans to relax, vent and build fellowship.
“It’s been a lot easier knowing that there’s an organization on campus that has the same interests and the same background you do,” Woods said.
Student Veterans Organization Meetings
When: Tuesdays at noon
Where: Scharbauer Hall, room 4015
For more information contact John Hughes at [email protected]