By: Tanner Abel
The University of South Carolina’s Student Veterans Association is dear to second-year public relations student Dani Goodreau’s heart because of her military experience.
Goodreau, who is now the president of SVA, served seven years in the Air Force, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where she helped airlift soldiers injured in combat to safety. Her transition back to USC wasn’t an easy one. In fact, a lot of veterans’ transition back to campus life after the military is challenging for them.
“I think the biggest issue that veterans have as a whole is feeling that they belong here or feeling like they fit in,” Goodreau said. “Going from fighting wars in the Middle East and seeing your brothers and sisters dying right in front of you. To coming to a university with 18, 19, 20, 21 year-olds, who are just sort of getting started and just starting to learn about the world.”
The Student Success Center at USC has helped Goodreau and many other student veterans deal with any issues they are having.
The center says the top three biggest issues for veterans are not feeling like they belong, finances and time management.
Coordinator of Transfer and Special Student Population Services Erin Knaul said having more free time instead of the structured schedule in the military is difficult for some student veterans.
“Sometimes just making that switch from military life to campus life is tough,” Knaul said. “Military is very scheduled, prescribed. Then you go to campus where your schedule might be very ambiguous. And then just finding other students that can relate to them can be hard.”
A lot of veterans also struggle with the way students treat older people. Ron Doiron served in the U.S. Army for over 25 years and is now a third-year exercise science student at USC. He tries to help student veterans who get upset when they see younger students disrespect authority because that’s not how they would treat a commanding officer.
“I had a friend of mine come up to me and say, ‘How do you do it?’” Doiron said. “You know, this guy came in, poked his head in the classroom and started being obnoxious. I’m like, ‘Dude, you just got to learn to laugh. You’re not getting shot at. Isn’t it a little bit easier here?’”
The Student Veterans Association has allowed those like Doiron and Goodreau to find a group where they are comfortable and can relate to others.
Goodreau says the SVA is in regular contact with over 300 student veterans at USC. She doesn’t have an exact way of knowing how many student veterans are on campus because of privacy laws. Goodreau estimates there could be an additional 400 to 700 veterans at the school who may not know about the SVA.
The SVA’s main goals are connecting veterans and providing help and networking opportunities for jobs while also giving back to the community.
“You know, from Greek Life to student organizations, we want to let our campus know we’re here, and we want to be a part of what you’re a part of,” Goodreau said. “And we want you to be a part of what we’re a part of.”