March 11, 2016

ELSB panel sheds light on veteran students’ experiences

UofL Veterans speak to ELSB and others Photo by Madison Wurth

By Hannah Esrock–

On March 10, U of L’s ELSB held a talk to debunk stereotypes surrounding veterans. Last semester, there were 920 veterans on campus continuing their education.

The two panelists were U of L student-veteran Chad White, and Carissa Gentry, who works in the office of military and veteran services. Both veterans exchanged experiences as a veteran on a college campus.

Gentry herself was a veteran prior to Sept. 11, 2001, calling herself a “lucky one,” while White went into service right after the terrorist attacks.

Gentry explained how it is much easier for women “to fit the mainstream of a college campus, and it not be known that they are veterans.” White explained that if he didn’t proudly wear his combat boots and practical camo backpack, other students also wouldn’t know.

“Only about 20 percent of us are visible,” White said. “We come from all walks of life and every spectrum, and that is partly why I loved serving so much: because we share such a diverse bond.”

The panel had a long discussion about the stereotypical solider: white, Republican and heterosexual. They said these assumptions are no longer accurate because there is such a diverse group of people fighting.

One of the biggest struggles, White shared, of being a student is missing class due to unmovable appointments for his war injuries. Daniel Krebs, a veteran and history professor, said he and other professors are generally quite understanding of this as long as they are told ahead of time.

“We can give veterans more respect that other students, but we cannot treat them any differently,” Krebs said.

Students with little prior knowledge of veterans might believe a veteran’s largest struggle would be battling with PTSD or other post-war issues.

“Not all veterans are broken,” White said. He said of the three years he has been a U of L student, he only had one bad flashback experience. A professor slammed a door he was sitting next to, reminding him of an explosion. White had to leave early that day.

Gentry shared a story where some students were directing a laser-pointer at a professor’s chest and another veteran in the class tackled the professor, because his first instinct was to protect. He told the confused professor afterwards he forgot where he was.

White said these instances are extremely rare, and wanted to end the idea that all veterans have mental problems or can’t handle stress.

Photo by Madison Wurth / The Louisville Cardinal

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