Like many college students, LSA junior Derek Blumke has trouble waking up for class.
But hitting the snooze button won’t be an option in a few weeks when Blumke, a Michigan Air National Guard member, ships off to southwest Asia to serve another round in the military.
Blumke, along with three other members of the Student Veterans Association, a group he started, participated in a panel discussion last night.
During the event, held in the Michigan Union, the panelists gave their reasons for enlisting, what they learned from their experiences and the challenges of re-acclimating to civilian life at the University.
MBA student Sherman Powell said he joined the Army because he couldn’t imagine doing anything else with his life.
“I didn’t really see anything that interested me in college,” Powell said. “I enjoyed the idea of doing real things with real people.”
But for some money was more of a factor.
Engineering sophomore Matt Orians said earning money for college was his reason for joining the Navy.
“I knew I couldn’t afford to come here or anywhere else,” Orians said. “There’s a lot they don’t tell you when they promise you money for college, though.”
Orians, who said he has a 3.9 GPA in nuclear engineering, said his classes have been a cakewalk because of what he learned while operating a nuclear reactor and working on a submarine for the Navy.
But not all the veterans have shared Orians’ smooth academic transition.
Sam Kim, a fifth-year student in the School of Education, said it was difficult for him to get used to studying on a regular basis after serving.
“It was hard for me to acclimate academically,” he said.
Most of the veterans talked about what they saw as people’s misconceptions about the war.
“The terms of the debate on the war of Iraq are just so shallow,” Powell said. “I just wish there was better information, but that can’t happen because the media is a target now, too.”
Powell said access to information is much more scarce than it was during the war in Vietnam. The best way for people to become more educated, he said, is to talk to veterans who experienced the war firsthand.
But Kim said the soldiers themselves are not always told the entire story.
“A lot of times for military personnel, everything’s on a need-to-know basis,” he said.
Blumke started the Student Veterans Association in May.
The group has pushed University officials to better accommodate the veterans by offering them in-state tuition and credit for military experience.
In response to the group’s efforts, the University has said it will seriously consider hiring a staffer to help veterans transition to life on campus.
– Jenny Armstrong contributed to this report.