My Campus Vet Center Was A Lifeline When I Needed It Most
Student Veterans of America | January 27, 2017
Written by: Ryne Tobar, a U.S. Navy Veteran and student at Duquesne University
The request to speak freely is not always an appeal to which permission is granted. I was a sailor who often tried to push etiquette with my superiors. Sometimes my boldness and candor was appreciated while at others it was met with reprimand. I cherish the ability to freely speak, a right guaranteed in the constitution that I took an oath to defend. It took an experience of having that right constricted to better understand the fullness of its possibility. Although I am again a civilian, I remain a veteran, and my experience in the military continues to shape the person I am today. What this means isn't always clear.
Ryne Tobar, pictured here at the Duquesne University Campus Vet Center
There are a lot of things that can't be taught in a college classroom. There are some things that must be experienced and experience takes time. Experience takes energy, it takes a certain amount of commitment. Experience requires a level of openness and the realization that an experience has changed who you are in some indescribable way. To try to communicate this to another may require twice as much energy, digging for words that feel like they have lost their meaning in the end. College is its own experience. Military service is certainly an experience of a very different type.
These two worlds collided in a way I wasn't able to predict when I became a student-veteran. I could talk and talk to other students, but I felt like they didn't understand where I was coming from. That connection wasn't there. Luckily, I had been introduced to the veteran community at school during an orientation, and I had been shown where the vet center was on campus. What for us at Duquesne started as 'board room' type executive center, has transformed into a relaxing space where vets can come and go as they please. Whether running into the old regulars, or finding the space to myself, either is a welcome retreat from the rest of campus, and city life. The vet center on campus has really been a lifeline when I've needed it.
Prior to my service in the navy, I had heard the 'sea stories' from my grandparents and elders. It's come as a surprise to me that I never took an interest in these musings until I had a few sea-stories of my own. The vet center is a place where we can share some of these stories; but its more than that. It's a place that we can come together and make sense of those shared experiences in a way that can't necessarily be met in other ways. It's a place to speak freely and candidly and met with the mutual understanding of where we are all coming from.