"For a while, I thought I was the only one," says Abraham Holland '08, a member of the U.S. Air Force who served in support of operations in Afghanistan and matriculated at Dartmouth three years ago. "This year, we have a formative group of people with military experience."
That group is represented in the new Dartmouth Undergraduate Veterans Association (DUVA), which became an official student group recognized by the Council on Student Organizations last winter. Samuel Crist '10, a U.S. Marine and veteran of the Iraq War, helped found the group and is its first president. "Making the transition from the military to college can be intimidating," he says. "So many people here have gone out of their way to help me, and I want to be that supportive to others."
The 10 current members of DUVA have a diverse range of international military experience, serving for countries such as Israel, Norway, Singapore, and the United States. Yet they all share a familiarity with the mental and physical rigors of military service, as well as questions about college life. "The campus can sometimes seem like an alien environment," says Greg Agron '11, a U.S. Marine who served for more than four years in Iraq. "It's nice to realize that there are people here just like me who can listen to me speak and know exactly what I mean."
Gathering about once a week, the group discusses issues ranging from homelessness among U.S. military veterans to more basic things like class schedules and dorm life. When they have questions they can turn to one of their advisors, such as Professor of History Gene R. Garthwaite, the Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor in Asian Studies. Garthwaite, who served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s, says the veterans "bring a maturity and quite a different and extremely important outlook on the world. Their opinion can affect the learning process of all students." DUVA is also advised by former U.S. Marine John Rassias, professor of French, the William R. Kenan Professor, and president of the Rassias Foundation.
In the past year, President James Wright has been widely recognized for his efforts to make it easier for veterans-particularly those wounded in action-to attend college. Indeed, it was three years ago that Wright met with and recommended college to a hospitalized Crist, who was recovering from gunshot wounds from a battle in Falluja, Iraq. Wright says: "I am moved by the service members' stories and inspired by their sacrifice. Access to education is one of the best ways that we can pay tribute to those who serve and defend their country."
By STEVEN J. SMITH
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Last Updated: 5/30/08