Veterans in the Classroom

Guest blogger Alisa Roost is assistant professor of the humanities at Hostos Community College in the South Bronx. Her e-mail address is aroost@hostos.cuny.edu. Here, Roost writes about “Supporting Veterans in the Classroom,” an article that appeared recently in Academe

The United States has benefited from an all-volunteer military with both more professionalism in the armed forces and less opposition to recent wars than a draft might have engendered.  Despite the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military service is confined to a relatively small segment of U.S. society. During WWII, nearly everyone knew someone who served, and that made serving feel less foreign.  Now, however, military services tends to focus in specific sub cultures and sub groups and many people do not know a single person who has served in the military. This makes the gap between civilian and military life even larger.

Despite the variety of opinion about the moral justness or wisdom of the recent Global War on Terror, I hope we can all stand behind the young, idealistic men and women who witnessed the collapse of the twin towers and volunteered in our name to protect us. And yet the unemployment rate for post-9/11 combat vets is 50% higher than for non-veterans.  Furthermore, a lot of veterans are being asked to do all the adjusting as they come back to civilian life.  There has been some excellent research into veterans’ centers supporting vets on campuses, but even that model again puts the onus onto the veterans.  Of course veterans’ centers and peer support are terrific, but teachers (and bosses and friends) need to help.  Taking a little bit of time to learn a little about military pedagogy and some common veteran’s experiences may help the veteran who is 95% of the way there make it to the finish line.  My hope is that our article can start to help faculty bridge that cultural gap between the academy and the frontlines of war.

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