I sometimes get asked if I killed anyone. After five years in the army, I have accumulated a range of responses at the ready from darkly humorous to simply annoyed depending on the situation or my mood. Normally when asked such questions I just answer no. I didn’t join to fight or support the ongoing wars, I joined to afford college tuition. After serving my time in the military I find myself back in the classroom. Lately, like many who leave the army to start school, I feel a disconnect between a life that was mine and a new identity as a student veteran.
When asked questions about my military life by my classmates, I begin to feel a divide between them and me. We are all students, but there is an aspect of my life that seems so different than theirs. The other day, I was starting a new class and the teacher wanted to do an introductory exercise with our classmates. She asked us to talk to the person we were sharing a desk with about anything we wanted to. My classmate and I were discussing what we did prior to going to school. When he found out I was in the army, he had a million questions about the military. Most of these questions were concerning things he had seen on television or in the movies. This made the already uncomfortable exercise of making small talk with a stranger worse. The conversation quickly turned from forced questions that we slogged through, to him firing awkward military questions at me. Some questions were silly like what a Jody is. I gladly told him it was a term used to call someone who sleeps with a military spouse, and used in a mostly humorous fashion. Some had frightening implications on what civilians thought of the military, such as what was it like to always carry a g...
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In my interactions with others about school, I have found that I am not just a student. I am not like my classmate who confused military movies with real life. I am not like my friends, who are near their end of their schooling and establishing their lives. This is my new life, and like many who leave the military, I am learning to establish my place in it. On the other hand, I am no longer the military member I was, and I am new to the student world. I have to incorporate my previous life with my new life. Learning to blend the veteran with the student will be a long-term adjustment process. So I go to class, I do my assignments, and I struggle to put my past in the past. Nevertheless, I am a student veteran, and even if that comes with a lot of baggage I wasn’t prepared to deal with in the civilian world, it still comes with the title student.
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