In honor of Veterans Day on Wednesday, student veterans joined a group of 50 students and community members to highlight their transitions from combat to classroom.
Held at the Michigan Union, the forum was one of many hosted by the University’s Veteran and Military Services this week. Other events included panel discussions on the wars in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq and the Cold War.
Engineering junior Kenneth Greene, who served from 2008 until 2013 at the Marine Corps Airspace in New River, N.C., said he was pleasantly surprised by how generously the University community treats its veteran students.
“There’s so many resources for veterans on campus it’s insane,” Greene said. “I don’t think we’ve been left out at all, as far as that goes.”
These resources include scholarships offered specifically to veterans, as well as the University’s policy of extending in-state tuition to all veterans regardless of their residency.
LSA junior Joshua Strup served in the U.S. Army from 2001 to 2010 and was stationed in Germany, Oklahoma and Michigan. Though Strup said the University community’s recognition of veterans is great, he added that the University could improve the way it targets veterans in the recruitment process. He said while veterans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they only make up 1.5 percent of the University’s student population.
“We are a very underrepresented demographic,” Strup said. “What the University might want to consider is trying to recruit more military personnel to pursue a life here at Michigan after they get out.”
Robert Kraynak is a first-year graduate student pursuing both an MBA from the School of Business and an M.S. in the School of Natural Resources. Kraynak served in the Navy from 2007 to 2015. He was deployed to Afghanistan twice.
Kraynak said he had a positive experience with Veterans Affairs in the Ann Arbor area.
“The VA in Ann Arbor is fantastic,” Krayter said. “I’ve been very impressed.”
The panelists stressed that misconceptions regarding veterans are harmful and inaccurate. Strup said one of the most damaging notion ascribed to veterans is that they are warmongers, and having that reputation — which he said is skewed from the reality — is detrimental to both the troops and their cause.
“The majority of the veterans I know abhor war,” Strup said. “We hate violence. We just understand that sometimes it’s a unfortunate unnecessary evil in the world.”
Strup said more often than not veterans are pacifists, particularly after returning from war.
“I think there are a lot of false stereotypes about the military,” Strup said.
Greene echoed Strup’s points, also noting that veterans tend to be more laid back than their traditional characterization.
“Civilians think that we’re all crazy hard-asses,” Greene said. “ I think most of us are pretty open and generally laid back. You never want to label someone an angry person.”
Social Work student Monica Flores served in San Diego as an air traffic controller from 2001 to 2010. As a woman, Flores said she is rarely recognized as being a veteran, and said she is often asked if she was inquiring for services for a brother or father.
Kraynak said the oversexualization of war in the media acts as a machine for these misconceptions, citing the 2008 film “The Hurt Locker,” a drama based on the Iraq war. He added that the unglamorous areas of military service, which account for a majority of deployed service are underrepresented in the media.
“ ‘The Hurt Locker’ is supposed to be a representation of my community,” Kraynak said. “They really gloss over all the times you’re sitting around playing euchre.”
Kraynak said though negative stereotypes are common, excessive glorification of veterans is another form of misconception.
“There are so many different ways to serve — not just your country but the people around you,” Kraynak said. “Don’t put us on a pedestal, there’s no need to. We volunteered for something, we served, did great things — maybe sometimes we didn’t do great things — we’re human.”