Fireworks on the Fourth of July are meant to bring joy to Americans every year, but for soldiers who have returned from active combat duty, the experience can trigger reminders of war.
Veterans of Dallas, a student group comprised of veterans, aims to address challenges like these along with other obstacles former soldiers face upon returning home.
Originally formed three years ago, the organization is undergoing an overhaul to attract more members.
“We want to completely revamp the whole thing starting in August when the fall semester starts so it’s more appealing for students to join,” said Malicka Modgil, vice president of the club and an accounting and finance junior. “A lot of veterans, when they’re coming back home, they don’t really want to get involved. They want to spend time with their families because they haven’t been able to for so many years.”
Veterans of Dallas organizes a variety of events targeted toward vets including networking events with employers interested in hiring servicemen and women.
Others activities include community service projects. Last year, several community volunteers worked with former President George W. Bush.
Modgil, who served four years in the Navy, said keeping members active is one of the main goals for the organization.
A major problem veterans face on their return home is the struggle to readjust to civilian life after spending an extended amount of time in the armed services. For many former members of the military, something as simple as choosing clothes to wear or deciding what to eat can have its challenges.
“In the service, everything is provided for you,” said Nicholas Jones, president of Veterans of Dallas. “You know where you’re going to work; you know where you’re going to go; you know who’s in charge. When you get out of the military, it’s all on you.”
Jones, who served in the Army for three and a half years, said veterans often come out of their time in the armed services still used to having a mission-oriented mindset. Once they’re no longer involved with the military, it can be difficult for soldiers to make decisions on their own.
The process involved in leaving the military can take six to eight months, and it involves courses focused on teaching soldiers the important aspects of post-service life like making a budget or searching for a job.
Despite their best efforts, servicemen and women can be subjected to babying with everything taken care of during the process, ultimately hurting their decision-making skills outside of the military, Jones said.
Working with the Veteran Service Center, the organization hopes to be heavily involved in a new mentorship program the center is slated to start in the fall. It will connect new veterans with ones who have reintegrated back into civilian life.
Veterans of Dallas also wants to address soldier’s who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
They have worked closely with the Center for Brain Health, who has started a study on the effects of PTSD on veterans here at UTD, to get help for any former service members who suffer from the disease.
“A lot of times guys come back with some things they haven’t dealt with,” said Cedric Jones, recruitment coordinator for the PTSD study. “Obviously if you spend any amount of time in a combat zone there may be some issues that you need to address. At the Center for Brain Health, we’re trying to get soldiers back to a new normal.”
With the student body growing each year, the veteran student population is only expected to grow. Organizations catering to their needs will be vital to their health, Jones said.
“It’s extremely important when you consider the number of veterans returning to the Dallas area,” he said. “Especially with the drawback in combat operations, there’s going to be a lot of student veterans coming from area colleges going to UTD. Knowing that the Veterans of Dallas is going to grow even larger, it’s extremely important for collaborations to be made to address issues that aren’t always being talked about.”