UNL student veterans adjust to new lives

Every 65 minutes, a U.S. military veteran takes his or her own life, a startling statistic that translates to roughly 22 suicides a day.

For many veterans, the assimilation back into civilian life can be just as difficult as the service itself, especially for those attending college. Jacob Post, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Marine Corps veteran who has served two deployments, can vouch for just how difficult it is to be a soldier in – and out of – uniform.

“Almost every aspect of service life is structured,” said Post, whose deployments in included Japan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. “Then when you get out, there’s none of that. You’re on your own.”

That’s why as president of UNL’s Student Veteran Organization, Post spends time organizing group outings to help build a needed solid support network for veterans and foster camaraderie.

Like nearly 700 other veterans at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Post is an active beneficiary of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, which helps veterans transition into civilian life by offering grants to cover tuition for college or trade schools.

Yet the completion rate for veterans attending four-year universities is only 51.7 percent, which is 10 percent lower than the rate of those who attend college immediately following high school, according to a 2014 study by the Student Veterans of America.

For many like Post, it’s easy to feel out of place on a college campus.

“Most of the people in my classes are 18 or 19 years old, and fresh out of their parent’s house,” he said. “I’m 25 and I’ve already been around the world.”

That lack of connection and camaraderie for veterans on campus is a driving factor regarding the low graduation rate among veterans, according to a study published by the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Roughly 85 percent of veterans and active duty service members enrolled in undergraduate programs are 24 years of age or older, and many have families to support, the study said.

To increase support for student veterans, Darrell Everhart, a retired 25-year naval officer from Lincoln, founded the Student Veterans Organization at UNL in 2007.

“The Student Veterans Organization is dedicated to helping veterans, active duty military, and their families, achieve success in their pursuit of a degree from UNL while providing a network of support, and friendship on and off campus,” according to the group’s website.

Whether the group members go to the shooting range, do rock climbing or simply get together for a drink, the outings are helpful, Post said. It’s good for veterans to be around those who understand and can share in their experiences, he noted.

“We’re just trying to bridge the gap and be there to lend a hand if someone is reaching out.”

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