Student veterans share their stories

Veteran Viking Week continued on Oct. 11 in Smith Memorial Student Union with a three-person panel of student veterans who offered advice and answered questions from students, faculty members and other veterans.

In 2017, there were approximately 873 veterans attending Portland State, which is the largest veteran group of any other public university in Oregon. That same year, PSU’s Veterans Resource Center served 713 users.

Interim Director of the VRC Taylor Paschall introduced the panel by asking what being in the military meant to them.

“I got to join a brotherhood that extends all over the world,” said Jeff, an accounting student and former Marine. “If I meet a Marine anywhere else, that person is instantly my family.”

“The VRC is the only reason I stayed in this school,” Jeff continued. “It’s a bunch of good people who make it [better here].”

Rose, a student in the criminology and criminal justice program, said the significance and meaning of military service is different for everyone. For her, the desire to join stemmed from her family’s history of service. “My dad was in the Army,” Rose said, “[and] my grandfather was in the Navy, which was why I was in the Army and then the Navy.”

One student attendee, also a veteran, wanted to know if the panelists had encountered any prejudice from teachers because of their status as veterans.

“It’s not uncommon,” Jeff said. “[In my experience, veterans have] quit because they [felt] discriminated against.”

The same student attendee who asked the question went on to describe how a professor had once asked them, “What do you call your enemy?” According to the student, there were other examples of questionable conduct—including when the same professor asked another veteran in the class how many people he had killed.

In instances such as these, the panel suggested going to the Dean of Student Life, placing an anonymous complaint or talking to an advisor about placing an informal complaint.

Another audience member asked the panel about campus disarmament, identifying herself only as a PSU faculty member working in the Office of Graduate Studies.

The panel’s consensus was to continue to have armed officers on campus. “By disarming PSU Police, you are just increasing response time,” said Charles, a Coast Guard veteran and PSU student. “Portland police are also armed.” Before PSU armed its campus police force in 2014, campus officers would wait for back-up from the Portland Police Bureau in certain situations because of jurisdictional issues or safety concerns.

The veterans also addressed challenges and concerns about how to help a partner sign up for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits after they have recently returned home from deployment to a combat zone.

Since 2013, the VRC has offered resources and advocacy services to assist with students’ academic success. A Vocational Rehab Counselor is also available on campus for veterans, dependents and active-duty military students.

Due to concerns over potential backlash against the subjects of this story, their full names have been withheld.