Four student veterans from the University of Michigan spoke to a crowd of 20 people at the Michigan League Thursday morning. 

The event was sponsored by the Office of Veterans Affairs and moderated by Philip Larson, the program director of Veterans and Military Services, for Veterans Week sponsored by the University. The event consisted of a discussion with Larson followed by a Q&A with the audience. 

Larson started off the conversation by introducing the panelists and asking them how the military helped them prepare for college life. All of the panelists discussed how the military helped them learn skills for collegiate success. 

Panelist Jennifer Phillips, an LSA freshman, is part of the National Guard. She participated in basic training this past summer before starting her classes. Phillips shared that doing basic training for the National Guard made her more mature and made her stand out among her classmates. 

“Being a freshman and 18 years old along with all the other freshmen here, I’m in the same age group and everything, but all of my professors have talked to me outside of class and asked, ‘How are you so different?’” Phillips said. “And that’s kind of when I told them like, ‘Oh yeah I’m in the army, this summer I went to basic training, and I really matured there, and I kind of realized what’s important.’”

Panelist Scott Reel, a Rackham student, served in the Marine Corps as a journalist and had to interact with all ranks of military officers. Reel said he became skilled in communicating and working with a deadline through his work.

“Being a journalist, there’s kind of a pipeline for work. You have to contact the units, and then you have to figure it out,” Reel said. “You have to film it, and you have to write it. You have to, if you’re doing video editing, do basically everything yourself. There’s a deadline because this is journalism, so I got pretty good at prioritizing projects and task management.” 

Panelist and nursing student Warren DeLong went straight into the Navy after high school and served in a hospital in Okinawa, Japan. He said being in a foreign country without his family at 19 years old helped him develop as a person. 

“My first duty station was Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan, and I loved it,” DeLong said. “When you’re living in a foreign country, as a 19-year-old, it’s not hard to find fun, new, exciting things. I really liked the people I worked with … and they guided me, they mentored me, and they got me on the path that I am today started taking college classes.” 

Engineering graduate student Ian Carter attended the event and told The Daily that discussing the different types of military careers emphasized the diverse opportunities the military offers.

“My favorite thing is that they all had different experiences, and I think that is important to highlight when you are talking about people in the military,” Carter said. “You can have a Marine that was a journalist and you can have a Navy corpsman that was working in a hospital. The variety of stories really help to highlight to regular civilians that the military is really a profession and that you can accomplish other things.”

During the discussion, panelists also talked about adjusting to University housing on campus. Engineering student Stefany Escobedo, panelist and president of the University’s chapter of Student Veterans of America, said she had to do her own research to find out whether she was eligible for graduate housing. 

“I did not know because I was so old, that I could be in graduate housing as an undergraduate. And it took — it was the first year — after the first year, year and a half maybe, that I was reading through the policies and procedures of housing for some reason,” Escobedo said. “And that’s when I saw if you’re out of high school for six years or something, then you can apply for graduate housing. And I said, ‘Why did nobody tell me?’ That was very frustrating for me because instead of moving around from, like, this little room and my summer storage to this apartment that cost $1,400 and that was really far away from North Campus.”

Business sophomore Michael Geraci attended the event and told The Daily it was helpful to hear positive and negative perspectives of being in the military. 

“I thought it was interesting to get insight from enlisted and active duty people,” Geraci said. “I’m not contracted with ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) yet, which means I don’t have a commitment with it. I’m still kind of considering that option, and I’m considering what route I would want to do. I also like hearing the negatives, too. You get the positives shoved down your throat, and I wanted to get a whole perspective.”

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