Veterans speak out about difficulties after service

On Nov. 8, before Veteran’s Day weekend, a small event was held on campus to recognize and celebrate people who have dared to put their lives at risk for our country.

The event was in a small room tucked away in the C building cafeteria, adorned with patriotic colors and a food bar. The end of the bar featured apple pies and a tub of vanilla ice cream to top everything off.

The Veteran’s Day celebration is an event that happens every year, and more details about it can be found in the Student Programs Center.

James Randall, the veteran’s coordinator in Student Programs, was hired last minute to plan the party. “It was fun, I think I enjoyed planning and decorating more so than the presentation,” Randall jokes. “But now I have empathy for my teachers when their presentations don’t work.”

Randall is a young veteran himself, serving as a supply specialist in the infantry brigade at Fort Louis, WA.

Bob Perry, a 71-year-old veteran who was a chart maker in the Navy during the Vietnam era, sat at one of the blue tables in the room. He had many tales of not only war, but also his social and political views on retired veterans, such as Randall and himself.

One of the most relevant opinions that he shared was about mental health. When asked about how veterans are controversially treated in our society, he gave his own uncited statistics, saying that “In a typical year there will be 40,000 people lose their lives to gunfire, two thirds of these are suicides. Of that number, one third are veterans.” He continued, “So there seems to be a major problem reintegrating people from the armed forces into civilian life.”

Randall also shared his story on life after service. “I have experienced homelessness myself, for a long time. It was hopeless, until I committed a few crimes and went to jail enough times that the court system mandated that I have housing, because I was homeless for so long and I was a veteran.”

“It’s really a shame that as a veteran you have to do that to get any sort of help, you have to prove that you’re sick in the head.”

Furthering the negative perception of U.S. veterans, Perry relayed information that he got from a classroom guest. The guest worked for the FBI and homeland security, and was a 19-year veteran. “[She] characterized ex-military and gun owners as being a threat, and it’s just mind boggling. People who have served in the military, what’s wrong with that?”

Randall ended the conversation on a much lighter note. “It’s a struggle, but once you get the treatment it gets better. You learn ways to cope and learn ways to deal with problems and you relearn how to live your life in a different way.”

Whether or not you agree with their choices, you can admire that they fight for what they believe in. Come celebrate veterans every year at the event, and enjoy the free food. All guests are welcome to listen.