GW veterans were questioned on topics ranging from their experience in the military to their adjustment back to civilian life during the first “Ask a Vet” forum Wednesday night.
Sponsored by the GWU Vets and Delta Phi Epsilon, the event drew more than 70 people to the Elliott School of International Affairs.
The open question and answer session, moderated by GWU Vets adviser Robert Trost, allowed for interaction between five panelists and the audience. The panelists included members of both the Army and the Marine Corps, and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The most defining moment are the ones you question why you are there,” said Brian Hawthorne, a Marine Corps combat medic and Iraq veteran, in response to a question concerning the experiences that most exemplify the service of panelists.
“It’s the brotherhoods you form that are going to be there for the rest of your life,” he added. “It’s why you can’t quit.”
“Just getting out shows the true meaning of being in the service,” added combat engineer Kevin Blanchard after talking about what he liked and disliked about his service in the Marine Corps.
Blanchard, a sophomore, took the lead on answering questions about adjusting back to civilian life after overseas tours.
“It’s extremely tough,” he said. “I’ve been here for two years and there are times when I’ve felt very isolated.”
All of the panelists spoke of the need for a better support system for veterans transitioning from the military back to civilian life at GW.
“It was really hard (to transition),” Blanchard said. “But right now it’s amazing. The transition was an incredible journey.”
Senior Wade Spann, a Marine Corps veteran and president of GWU Vets, talked about the difficulties some have with the transition, noting that two of his friends committed suicide after leaving the service. Spann emphasized the need to take “negative experiences and turn it into positive results,” as well as the need for a strong support system.
Coming out of the service “you don’t have that safety net you had in the Marine Corps,” he said.
In response to a question about what they would recommend to an 18-year-old high school graduate deciding between college and the military, all agreed that it depends on the person individually and what is best for them, but added that they would generally recommend joining the service.
“The military experience is not for everybody,” Spann said.
He added that GWU Vets is open to all students, whether they are veterans seeking a support system, non-veterans who want to support the veterans, or people who just generally want to know more about military service.