Student Veteran Uses Opportunities To ‘Help Veterans in a Tangible Way’
David Haney ’23 has experienced firsthand the challenges that military veterans face in transitioning to college. Now the Aggie is committed to helping other student veterans pursue their education at Texas A&M University through his work with Veteran Aggie Leaders for Outreach, Research & Resources (VALOR2), a program through the Division of Student Affairs’ Don & Kellie Knauss Veteran Resource & Support Center (VRSC).
As VALOR’s student coordinator, Haney plays a pivotal role in helping former military personnel find what they need as students, whether that’s academic, financial, emotional or career support. “I act as an advocate for student veterans who are seeking to use any of the resources available to them through the VRSC and Texas A&M,” he said. “I am also a team leader for the other VALOR workers where we collaborate to perform resource engagement and feedback.”
Born in Monterey, California, Haney grew up in a Navy family that, like many other military families, often moved to new postings. The family’s longest stay was in Austin, where he attended middle school and most of high school.
After graduation, Haney enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, stationed at Fort Drum, New York. During his seven-year military career, he achieved the rank of sergeant and was deployed to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
After his military discharge, Haney enrolled in Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, New York, but was unprepared for the challenging transition to college. “It is a huge culture shock in that a veteran is coming from an organization where nearly every detail of your life is planned and regulated by a large chain of command,” he said. “Even if a veteran knows what they’d like to do when they get out of the military, it can be nearly devastating to have to relearn how to ‘do life,’ as it was in my case.”
Needing to regroup, he took a break and eventually returned to Monterey, where he resumed his studies, earned an associate degree from Monterey Peninsula College, and enrolled at nearby Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Still, Haney didn’t feel he had found the right academic home and eventually applied to Texas A&M for the fall 2021 semester. He quickly found VRSC and began tapping into the center’s deep well of support. “The military admissions team at the VRSC worked diligently to make sure I met all the requirements to get accepted to Texas A&M,” he said. “Their dedication to the veteran community has further inspired me to use my education and work experience to serve my peers.”
With his wife, Natalie, and daughter Clementine settled in College Station, Haney is devoting himself to his studies. “The space for inquiry, initiative, and innovation that Texas A&M fosters has allowed me to explore my own growth personally, professionally, and academically,” he said. “Ultimately, I want my future endeavors to reflect the core values that the university instills in all its students.”
Haney is studying history and geographic information systems, a combination that is teaching him to analyze and influence organizations. “By the time I had arrived at Texas A&M, I was on track to knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, which was to help veterans succeed where they previously thought there was no option for their success,” he said. “I want to figure out how to make organizational policies more streamlined and efficient while increasing their ability to address individual needs, especially in the military-affiliated realm for veterans, spouses, and dependents.”
Through his work and involvement with the VRSC, the Aggie senior is gaining hands-on preparation for his future career. “VALOR offered a platform to execute my desire to help veterans in a tangible way,” he said. “VALOR—and the entire VRSC — is staffed with people who all share the ultimate goal of enabling veterans to do well ‘by serving well those who served.’”
He proudly points to one example involving an Aggie student veteran who was struggling academically at Texas A&M’s nursing school in Round Rock. “Seeing the staff in the VRSC collaborate to pull together as many resources as possible to help this particular student veteran really illustrated a collective heart for serving,” Haney said. “Seeing the team effort in action encouraged and motivated me to be a part of a group of people dedicated to serving the student veterans at Texas A&M University.”
He’s also assisted with VRSC’s Veteran Evaluation of Talent and Matching Assistance Program (VET+MAP). “Using the CliftonStrengths Assessment and a human, intuitively driven process, VET+MAP encourages the student veteran to explore their unique talents and values, and how to use them to discover their purpose in life,” Haney explained. “Then, alongside their Texas A&M education, the student veteran is better equipped to enter into a career that is best suited for them.”
Now closing in on completing his bachelor’s degree, Haney realizes how far he’s come. “My adventure in higher learning has not been the easiest in any means,” Haney said. “I would hope that if anyone (veteran or not) hears my story, they would be encouraged and empowered to never give up on their potential, no matter what situation they may find themselves in.”