Helping colleges and universities prepare for returning veterans and active duty service members was an interest of mine before 2004 when I was a guest of the Secretary of Defense and given the opportunity to tour the European Command. Since that tour, it has become a passion.
Because of this passion, I left my home located between Baltimore and Washington, DC about 6:40 a.m. on Thursday, October 25, 2012 to travel to Bethesda, MD, home of the Walter Reed National Military Center (WRNMC). Six other alumni who had also, at one time or another, been a guest of the Secretary of Defense to tour a military command were also invited to the WRNMC to learn more about warrior care.
This medical center is the flagship of military medicine with state-of-the-art facilities to support wounded warriors and their families. Rather than describe the facility, I’d like to tell you what I learned that was not on the agenda for the tour.
- I learned that service members are surprised that our “veteran-friendly” colleges and universities still deny them admission based on their high school transcripts that are often a reflection of immaturity and a lack of a sense of direction. Their poor high school record is one reason that many of them volunteered to serve their country in the first place.
- I learned that service members are furious that colleges and universities want to force them to use their benefits and spend their time re-taking courses for which they already earned credit while on active duty.
- I learned that these service members at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center work extra hard to overcome the fact that they have lost limbs, that they have other wounds, that they have to learn basic skills all over again because of Traumatic Brain Injury. Because of their hard work, when they leave the medical facility, they want to be seen as prepared for their next phase in life. They want the opportunity to fit in as much as they desire. They say that they understand the intent of our referrals to our offices for students with disabilities, but they do not want to be seen as someone not prepared for the challenges ahead.
Because of some of the things I learned, some service members ask, “Is this the way colleges and universities say, “Thank you for your service?”