I've had the pleasure of working with some really creative students at my day job at The University of Texas at Arlington. Most students went to High School then maybe Junior College first, or jumped right into University. But for many students, the path wasn't so short or easy.
UTA has nearly 2,900 veterans enrolled, and they stand out. Talk to some professors and they’ll tell you that veterans are the best students. They show up to class, do assignments, and don’t complain.
I've had a few vets help me with extra-curricular events, setting up equipment and directing radio and TV productions. These men and women are awesome help, especially during productions, when time is critical, and pressure is high.
Some of these vets have tough stories though. I know students that have been homeless, battled substance abuse, and faced depression. But they keep moving forward. Through the G.I. Bill, they're going to college. And unlike too many students, they aren't taking it for granted. They’re driven to succeed in the civilian world, despite an uphill climb from being away for several years.
In a recent conversation, one of these students described how just a year ago he was serving his second tour in Iraq, and now he’s in the air conditioning, playing music at the student radio station, learning how to write for broadcast, and honing his technical skills. He calls it ‘surreal’. He works part time, has some free-lance gigs, and appreciates every minute of it. “I’m starting to build my life now.”
These stories are inspiring, and some students might gain some appreciation of their opportunities if they only knew the struggles of their military veteran classmates: the ones in class you don’t hear complaining about homework assignments.