Media narratives are misleading of veteran experiences

I have been serving in the world’s greatest Navy for the past 19 years.

I’ve served aboard ship on the USS O’Bannon (DD 987) and have completed two “boots on ground” tours, in Iraq (2006) and in Afghanistan (2013).

The most recent deployment occurred in the middle of my graduate program, which made for a difficult transition upon my return to higher education.

I can attest that my experiences in the military, my own transition to the civilian sector and now the work I do with student veterans have all reiterated the positive impact student veterans bring to our campus, specifically leadership, respect, global perspective, strong work ethic, maturity, teamwork and self-reliance.

Often these positive characteristics are overlooked due to the popular narrative in media regarding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The National Center for PTSD says 1120 percent of veterans who have served in post-9/11 conflicts suffer from PTSD.

The good news is that the diagnosis of and treatment for PTSD has significantly improved over the years.

One important thing to note as you interact with student veterans is that not every service member has been in combat, and not every service member that has been in combat has PTSD or a TBI.

The experiences of our student veterans are extremely subjective, and most are willing to share their story if asked in a respectful and nonjudgmental way.

Here are just a couple tips to keep in mind when asking military students about their experience.

First, know the language. For example, everyone in the military is not a soldier.

In fact, only members serving in the Army are truly soldiers. Marines are Marines, Navy personnel are sailors, Air Force personnel are airmen, and Coast Guard personnel are Coast Guardsmen.

This is just a small part of the military culture that would make a civilian appear much more knowledgeable and shows that you took time to understand their respective service.

Secondly, don’t make assumptions about someone’s military career.

Remember that the service member is the expert in his or her own military experience.

Media portrayals of military life and military culture are not always accurate.

If you come from a military family, share that information, but don’t assume that your family member’s experience is like that of the student veteran.

Each experience is unique, and regardless of your political views, it is always appropriate to extend gratitude for selfless service.

On Veterans Day, I encourage all readers to thank the veterans in your lives for their service and sacrifice.

You can do this in your own way by reaching out to veterans you know, or you are welcome to show your appreciation by attending the Veterans Day Celebration on Monday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m. in the Curtiss Hall Banquet Rooms.

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