**This story contains the personal account of a Fullerton College student’s experience transitioning from soldier to student.**
In the military, if you do what you are told with speed and intensity, have what you are told to have and show up 15 minutes prior to start time, then you are set. Those who serve beside you quickly become your friends and family with little secrets in between. In good times they are right there beside you and in the bad times, true camaraderie is forged.
What happens when the days over and the contract is up?
In 2009, at 19, I enlisted into the United States Marine Corps. I served for five years and some change. I have two deployments under my belt and left in May of 2014. I found work, in the Brea area, almost immediately after I left the military. However, I shortly found myself just going through the day to day motions of everyday life.
The honeymoon phase of civilian life was short lived.
I soon felt out of place among my coworkers, family and friends. I had lost a piece of myself. I became distant to those closest to me and sought the bottle for self-medication; anything to ease the depression I felt. I wasn’t surprised to see that my experience was not uncommon.
Roy Doyel, a fellow veteran and student at Fullerton College shared his experiences after leaving the military. Doyel served in the United States Navy from 2010 to 2015, where he was submariner. After separating, it took him four months to find work.
“I didn’t have much interaction with civilians until I got the job,” Doyel said. “I immediately felt like I was somewhere I didn’t understand.”
Doyel also began to feel very isolated and used alcohol to combat his feelings of depression and isolation. “My life became getting through eight hours of work, so I could get messed up for a few hours before bed,” Doyel said.
Now he is working within the Fullerton College Veteran Resource Center and is working towards a degree in the field of physics.
Both experiences are not uncommon and not all scars are visible.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, loneliness and social isolation are the most common mental health issues seen by the Veterans Health Administration .
Today there are 18.2 million veterans in the United States, with over 1.6 million veterans residing in California. In 2018, over 1.7 million veterans received treatment for mental health through the VA. It was reported that in 2017, 6,139 veteran deaths were from suicide.
California has many programs for veterans still battling mental health issues. Cal Vet offers resource for those seeking aide for issues regarding their mental health.
Aside from making the potentially jarring adjustment into civilian life, making the jump to college student can also be troubling for some. Veterans usually have thicker skin and tend to use less politically incorrect language when speaking.
Many of the core beliefs developed by service members can be conflicting with the attitude and views of their fellow students as well as their professors. This difference can potentially cause feelings of being out of place.
However, Fullerton College has a Veteran Resource Center on campus. The VRC is staffed by student veterans and provides students with a location to get assistance with things such as academic aide or a point in the right direction to get the help they may need.
Aside from getting assistance from the VRC, students are welcome to use the space to study or socialize with fellow students and veterans.