U.S. Senator John Cornyn and Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning spent part of this Veteran’s Day speaking with active duty and veteran Texas A&M University students about the triumphs and challenges of transitioning from the military to college.
Fanning noted he was delighted to spend Veteran’s Day at Texas A&M, known to be a military-friendly campus, and said of the holiday, “We shouldn’t just need one day to remind us of all that has been done on our behalf by those who serve, but we should certainly take this one day to remember what we owe those people who do serve.”
The roundtable, moderated by Col. Gerald L. Smith, USMC (Ret.), director of Texas A&M’s Veteran Resource & Support Center (VRSC), focused on such issues as the types of financial support available to student veterans and the many challenges they face in navigating civilian life.
“When you’re in the military, you’re in a very structured environment…and when you get into civilian life, it’s a lot less structured and sometimes that’s a little disorienting, particularly for our veterans that have suffered the visible and invisible wounds of war,” Cornyn noted. Getting the support they need in terms of healthcare is vital, he added.
Cornyn said that the leadership, self-discipline and organization of service men and women are great assets in college, but that the resources to transition to civilian life must be made readily available.
Several of the students at the roundtable noted that programs such as Troops to College and P.A.V.E. , as well as university units such as the VRSC and Veterans Services, have greatly assisted them in transitioning, and Fanning said that making soldiers aware of such programs early on is vital.
“The major thing I hear from those who are transitioning out of the Army is we have good programs, but we don’t make soldiers aware of them early enough,” he explained. “Most people, myself included, when you get to the point of transition, that’s when you think about it. So we need to make sure soldiers are aware and engaged in these programs early enough so they make a difference.”
Cornyn and Fanning agreed that Texas A&M is a national leader when it comes to the support and education of service members.
“I think part of what makes Texas A&M unique is the culture here, which is particularly conducive to people who serve in the military because of the great military traditions,” noted Cornyn. “[Service members] are exceedingly welcomed here and supported and valued. That’s not necessarily the case at a lot of places around the country. It’s hard to imagine anyone that does it better than Texas A&M.”
Fanning and Cornyn are continuing their tour of the university by visiting with Gen. Mark Welsh, dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, former U.S. Air Force chief of staff.
Cornyn concluded his visit by joining in a Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial ceremony at Veterans Park in the Louis L. Adam Memorial Plaza of Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station
Texas A&M has about 1,200 active duty service members and veterans currently enrolled.
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