From ‘combat to college': Soldiers join club to help with transition

2010-09-03T00:00:00Z From ‘combat to college': Soldiers join club to help with transitionBy KJ LANG La Crosse Tribune
September 03, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Daryl Thomas joined the military to save on his college bills and see the world.

He saw Japan, Hawaii, Guam and Singapore. Now the 25-year-old is checking out the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Making the switch to college after military service can be confusing, veteran students said.

But UW-L Veterans Club President Brandon Powers and Thomas, vice president, want to make the transition easier.

They are expanding the club, they said, and Thursday hosted the first "Combat to College" event.

"When I came back, I had no clue what to do or where to go - I had to find the answers myself," Powers said.

Veteran students heard about veterans benefits, campus counseling and health center services, and more.

About 300 UW-L students receive veterans benefits, which can be a major motivation to join the military, La Crosse County Veterans Service Officer Jim Gausmann said.

UW-L sophomore Eryn Sanborn realized in high school she would qualify for minimal college financial aid. Not wanting to "burden" her parents, she decided to join the National Guard.

She is in the second year of a six-year contract. Her military service will pay for her bachelor's degree, she said.

Veterans can qualify for different education benefits depending on their type of service and circumstances, so some guidance is helpful, Gausmann said.

Veteran students last fall also didn't receive benefits on time, he said, because the U.S. Depart-ment of Veterans Affairs wasn't prepared for the large number of applicants and also was lining up a new Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

"It was frustrating for everyone," Gausmann said. "We are hopeful it will be smoother this fall."

Benefits aren't the only consideration for veterans. They come in with a different experience than most new students, Thomas said. He was 23 when he went through UW-L's freshman orientation and felt "very out of place," he said.

"We (veteran students) are usually more goal-oriented," he said.

Thomas credits his military services for giving him real-world experience and focus before college. "As much as some people say they hated the military ... I look back and think it was well worth it," he said.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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