College is the New Mission

By: Whitney de Valroger Managing Editor

To commemorate Veterans Day, a documentary about veteran students was shown on Thursday November 10 at the Tech Center on the Rockville Montgomery College campus.  This was not a film highlighting the achievements brave soldiers earned or about heroic tales on the battlefield.  Instead, this film featured the overlooked issue of veteran students adapting to civilian life.

Imagine being instructed on what to do for four straight years of your life.  You are told what to eat, when to sleep, where to go.  Most active service people live that life every day in the usual time it takes to graduate from a university.  So when it is time to be discharged, the sudden change of settings can be a shock.  Arriving in a place where so much choice is available can be overwhelming.  Class schedules, extracurricular activities, choices we take for granted, are hurdles to pass for a person who is new to choice.

In Their Own Words, Montgomery College Student Veterans is a film that tackles this issue many returning veterans face.  Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Dr. Esther Schwartz-McKinzie made the film to showcase the stories of a few student veterans.  The film was shown at Rockville and Takoma Park campus.  Having a father who served during Vietnam, McKinzie felt a personal connection to the stories she was documenting.  “I had no idea how powerful and moving it would be for me to get to know the Montgomery college student veterans” states McKinzie.

The 22 minute film concluded with a live question and answer panel featuring veterans who participated in the film.  The audience could direct questions to the five veterans and inquire about the hardships they encounter transitioning from a military to school life.  “We’re not alone but it seems that we are,” said US Marines Corporal Brian Lee.  “That’s the reason we have these programs [Combat2College].  To get the veterans to actually come out, actually speak to individuals in similar situations.”

Combat2College is a program at Montgomery College that provides assistance and support to returning veterans.  Offering counseling and a social outlet, Combat2College makes college life more manageable for returning veterans having issues with the new challenges after the armed forces.

College life is a challenge for anyone.  Bills, social life, work, and, of course, academics can overwhelm students.  Returning veterans have an additional challenge; to fit into a new day to day routine.  The battlefield is replaced with classrooms and the structured life veterans are familiar with is no more.  The film In Their Own Words, Montgomery College Student Veterans is an inside look at the difficulties student veterans deal with.