The REAL Call of Duty
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It was a cold and wet morning on April 30th, 2008 in a little place called Fort Benning, GA. The weather seemed to fluxuate so dramatically by the minute. It was humid and cold at the same time. The air felt heavy, almost too difficult to breathe in. The weather in Georgia was nothing like anything I previously encountered. It seemed as if we traveled down the same road for hours. No streetlamps, just the headlights of the bus lighting the way. The bus jerked and came to a halt. I remember the door making the worst screeching noise as it opened, like nails on a chalkboard. I woke up startled, my heart racing at what felt like a million beats a minute. Almost as soon as the doors opened, a large figure appeared. “You have approximately 10 seconds to get off this bus,” the figure exclaimed in a soft tone. “There’s no way this is a drill sergeant,” I told myself. From what I saw in movies, drill sergeants screamed. It was the calm before the storm, so to speak.
From that moment on, I told myself to forget everything I thought I knew. Stepping off the bus was like stepping into another world. I was in hell. We were filed into groups like cattle and not a single person spoke. I couldn’t place it, but it wasn’t fear that inhibited me, rather an anxious feeling. I had knots in my stomach. I recall saying to myself, “I finally did it. I joined the United States Army.” I thought I knew everything before I stepped off the bus, but I was a cocky 20-year-old. There are specific instances in your life you never forget. This was one of them.
It’s difficult to explain my service in the military, partly because some parts of it are ‘expressionless.’ I think it’s easiest to chalk it up to the fog of war. I remember joining and I remember my last month in the military, aside from a few significant points that I care not to divulge. One of the most difficult transitions of my life was that of separating from the Army and deciding to attend college. For the 1% of American society currently serving in the Armed Forces, we know that nothing is simple. I knew that filing for Post-9/11 GI Benefits would be a pain and I made an incorrect assumption about PNC’s ability to really get the ball rolling for me.
In order to fully appreciate a veteran of the Armed Services, you must first understand what that commitment included. A veteran is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check payable to ‘My Country’ for an amount ‘up to and including my life.’ Life on the inside is much different than that of its counterpart. For me, it was a kind of “intro” and “exit” culture shock. I wasn’t sure I was ready for society again. For the 100 veterans that attend PNC, this is where Veteran Services surprised us in a positive way.
Support groups, such as PNC’s Veteran Services, were exactly what I needed to ensure a path for success. Veteran Services, located in the Dean of Services in the Library, Staff, and Faculty (LSF) building, gave me that fighting chance. President of the Veteran’s club, Kevin Biertzer, explained during an interview, “Veteran Services is here for veterans. We understand people have needs and we take it upon ourselves to ensure we take care of our own. We offer everything from scholarships that can help student veterans, to a lounge that they can escape to for homework, studying, or just to hang out.” Veteran Services helps transitioning vets with important questions regarding their benefits, complications that may arise with Veteran Affairs, and everything else in between. “We provide resources for their families and for themselves,” Biertzer explains.
The Veteran’s lounge, located in the bottom floor of LSF, room 67, has two computers and a printer for easy access. Office and lounge hours are as follows:
Monday and Wednesday
Tuesday and Thursday
The club offers two $500 scholarships to veterans that submit essays following a strict rubric. A special event for the club is on Veteran’s Day, November 11th. The names of the veterans that attend PNC are read at that time in a gesture of thanking them for their service. Even though it is a little ways off, this is an event everyone should mark on their calendar and attend.
The Veterans Club is partaking in a number of events this semester, including working with homeless veterans at the Weber House, located in Gary. “We are always looking for volunteers to help support our cause and to help support our vets,” Kevin says.
There was a lot of emphasis on the “we” and not some much the “I.” This is a characteristic instilled in members of the Armed Forces. Veteran Services offers a number of resources. For more information, feel free to stop by Veteran Services and speak with Paulina Jagodzinska, PNC’s Veteran Services Coordinator. If you have time, be sure to thank a vet for their service. You don’t need to experience the life of a soldier in order to appreciate one. Sacrifices were made so we can ensure our way of life.
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