Life of Student Veterans at York

York’s Veteran Affairs office | Photo by Niko Balkaran

By Tonia-lee Haughton

York College provides many services on campus to help students of unique situations, one of which is The Office of Veteran’s Affairs. The OVA’s mission is to help veterans smoothly transition from military life to York College, where they can pursue a college education and seek a desired career afterward.

The OVA takes care of the financial needs of veteran students by providing scholarship opportunities and benefits they receive in the military. These services ensure they can focus on their education and careers as they transition back to civilian life. While these educational milestones are challenging enough for civilian students, these are proven more difficult for students recently leaving the military.

Veterans face many difficulties as they transition back into regular life. 

“Transitioning from the military life to civilian life is hard for most veterans. When you’re in the military, everything’s done for you from the time you get up to the time you go to sleep. Your dinner’s already made, your job is already set, you know exactly what you’re doing. You get up at 4 am and you go to bed at 8,” Larry D. Eaton, the Veteran’s Affairs Manager, explained.

“If you’ve been indoctrinated with that for 4+ years when you come out, you’re kind of in the wind. You don’t have any direction,”  he continued. 

Eaton explained that he works, assisted by his two interns, to help veterans adjust to their new life as civilians and to lessen the difficulties they often face while doing so. He mentioned that the Veteran’s Affairs office also provides housing, assistance with transportation costs, internships, jobs, and financial assistance with tuition and books. 

Growing up as a child of an Army woman, Eaton had secondhand experiences of military life as he and his mother traveled from base to base. From that, he understands the challenges veterans face, which motivates his desire to help veteran students. 

One firsthand experience of military life comes from a York College student veteran, Corporal Antonio Velasquez. He joined the Marines after graduating high school. Today, he is 25 years old, majoring in business marketing while interning at the Veteran’s Affairs Office. After graduation, he hopes to become a business owner of his own marketing company. 

When asked about his experiences transitioning from the Marines into college, Corporal Velasquez showed gratitude and optimism toward his experience. “I felt like it was beneficial to my college experience and that’s because I learned a lot of discipline and I learned a lot of my work ethic. I gained a lot of knowledge from service that helps translate into college and definitely pay attention to detail. You know, just being on time and all the little things helped me with my transition into school.” 

Corporal Velasquez implied that his experiences with the Marines were helpful toward his time in college as they taught him life skills that college students need to succeed. He mentioned that his Marine life helped him grow into an adult faster than his civilian peers.

Eaton shows great passion for helping students like Corporal Velasquez. Not only is he interested in taking care of veteran students’ basic needs. He also wants them to enjoy life as they transition into college, so he encourages them to join the extra-curricular activities on the York College campus. He mentioned that York College provides over 40 clubs.

“I didn’t join any clubs when I first joined York. Honestly, I was just focused on my goal, which is my degree, and I feel like that was also due to my military background. I was so goal-oriented that I had tunnel vision on one thing. At first, I thought that was my military mindset, so I didn’t have any clubs my first couple of years,” Eaton said.

 Though Corporal Velasquez didn’t show interest in club activities, his hobby is playing the video game Call of Duty. He says that’s his favorite game to play because he resonates with its military theme.

The OVA hosted a Veteran’s Day event where they honored York College alumnus Captain Laquasia L. Carrasco. She was the first ROTC cohort on campus. According to Eaton, Captain Carrasco obtained the rank of Officer after she graduated college because of her ROTC experience on campus. Students who join the military after participating in ROTC will have a better start in their military careers than those who joined the military right after high school. 

Being a student veteran is understandably difficult when one considers transitioning from a life of the structure in the military to being a college student. Corporal Velasquez advises young people interested in joining the military to “do some research on a job that you actually wanna do.”

“I was lucky that I didn’t get put in a job I hate, but it wasn’t anything that I saw myself doing forever. I probably could have done a lot more research on that and got put in a field where I was a lot more comfortable,” he continued.

 His advice to students is that they should choose military life only if they’re passionate about it because it’s a challenging job. 

Despite the struggles, Corporal Velasquez also said he enjoyed his time in the Marines because he met different people in his field, like sailors, airmen, and soldiers, and learned about their lives. In addition, he enjoyed receiving gifts from families and nearby locals as gratitude for their services. While these students have faced difficulties as veterans, they made it clear that they had some great times in the military, and they wouldn’t change a thing about it.

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