Memorial Union hosts student veterans meet and greet event

Dakota Carpenter

For Aaron Burke, the most difficult part of returning to civilian life was simply interacting with other people. 

Burke, a sophomore in agricultural studies, was one of the student veterans who gathered Feb. 4 in the Col. Pride Lounge of the Memorial Union for a faculty, staff and student meet and greet. Students, faculty and staff were given the opportunity to converse with student veterans, and were provided coffee and snacks.

Aaron Burke, Adam Powers, Benjamin Hartwell and Kyle Janssen are student veterans attending Iowa State who served in the Marine Corps. Each of them had grandparents, parents and other members of their families who served in the military.

“I’m the fourth generation [in the military],” Hartwell, freshman in interdisciplinary studies, said. “My great-grandfather, my grandfather and my uncle did it as well.”

While most students use college as a time to grow up and find themselves, many service men and women are expected to “find themselves” much faster and under much more pressure as they venture through boot camp.

“It took us three months and that was it. After three months, if you can’t hack it, you get dropped,” Hartwell said. “Our emerging adulthood was extremely short.”

The four of them were recently discharged in 2014 and are continuing their education at Iowa State.

Burke and Powers agreed that they were able to acquire several skills while serving in the military, such as leadership and time management, which they have been able to adapt to civilian life and their college careers. 

Veterans are sometimes rewarded with a GI bill for their service to their country. The GI benefit is designed to help service members and eligible veterans cover the costs of education or training, according to

“Having a bachelor’s [degree] is like what it used to be back in the day to have a high school education. It just seems like everyone has one nowadays,” Janssen, senior in pre-business, said.

Powers said he didn’t understand why some military personnel would choose not to use what they have been given.

“I think it’d be crazy not to use what we [have],” Powers said. “It’s easy.” 

After serving in the military, some service men and women struggle to find jobs and assimilate back into civilian life. They may also struggle to communicate with civilians.

“The way that we handle problems and the way that we handle situations are a little more abrasive than others, so we can’t necessarily assimilate,” Burke said.

Once Hartwell was discharged, one of his greatest struggles was assimilating back into normal every day life. Many of his friends had moved away to begin lives of their own.

“Nobody really understands what you’ve done other than those people that you’ve been with. It’s hard for us to find a different outlet,” Hartwell said. “The Veterans Center is probably one of the best things that I ever walked into coming here. They definitely understand and they’re definitely here for you.”

Iowa State University tries to offer a welcoming community for veterans and their families.

Jathan Chicoine is the Veterans Services Coordinator for Iowa State, and he facilitates the Veterans Center in the Memorial Union. The Veterans’ Center partnered with student Veterans in the Veterans Learning Community at Iowa State to bring everyone together to provide the opportunity to delve into the joint community of traditional students and student veterans at Iowa State.

“We have a mission of strengthening the lives of veterans, military personnel and their families in our community,” Chicoine said.