Opinion: I got lost on the way to Rocky Top

Oh my! How life has changed. Going from building a stack of service ribbons to building a stack of citations from parking services comes with a bit of culture shock.

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Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.

Oh my! How life has changed. Going from building a stack of service ribbons to building a stack of citations from parking services comes with a bit of culture shock.

Most people serve one enlistment and complain the entire time, except when you are back home on leave, and you tell everyone you meet that  you are basically a superhero.  Then your active duty service is over, and it’s time for Uncle Sam to pay up.

So after a few trips around the world and at least four years late for your first day, you finally make it to a college class.

The military and the inherent lifestyle that comes from it is a weird place. It is a special niche of society dominated by alpha type personalities.

People can seemingly communicate entire conversations with acronyms like S.K.T.M.O. (sk-it-moe). I actually just made that one up, but I am willing to bet some freshly commissioned officer  somewhere has come up with it to streamline something like getting his troops through a lunch line.

Until you have raised your right hand and repeated the Oath of Enlistment to your country or had the brim of a drill instructor’s hat hit you in the eye while you are having insults about your family spewed your way,  it is hard to fully understand. To outsiders, the humor seems a bit too harsh; swear words flow from the tongue too frequently; angry reactions happen a little too quickly, and being levelheaded in the face of chaos seems unnatural. But for some, that is all in a day’s work.

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One of the stops on my journey to college was a long way from East Tennessee, the Southern Helmand Province in Afghanistan, where a lot of the military’s favorite past time happened, hurry up and wait.

If you are anything like me, you have felt some sort of disdain, and maybe a little jealousy, sitting in a classroom full of students going to a college on their parent’s dime with little real world experience. Especially when you think back to what you went through to earn your ticket to that same classroom.

My point in all this is we are not traditional students, and we are not your traditional non-traditional students.

We live in a world where our everyday lives are intertwined by the crazy bureaucracy that is the Department of Veterans Affairs, and there  are endless issues to be discussed.

Who among the veterans reading this didn’t know their health care system was broken before it became the front page media firestorm it was earlier this year? The conversation should not be focused on how shocking it is that the system is broken but what is going to be done to fix it.

While I may have issues with the VA,  the University of Tennessee community has a lot going on for student veterans. The Knoxville community has a strong veteran heritage.

Unless you are an ASVAB waiver, you should have guessed by now I am a veteran, a somewhat disgruntled and salty one. But despite all of this, I try to remain positive, and I will try to bring you some humor along with my commentary that will cover life as a student veteran at the University of Tennessee.

Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.

Edited by Maggie Jones