Student veterans share burden of war
March 20, 2008 2:07 PM
With the fifth year anniversary of the Iraq war on March 19, a new generation of war veterans are reaching out for a revolution. The latest club on campus, Our Veterans Club, formed from the concerned and proud few that have come back to the world of education after being in the U.S. Services.
“When I transferred here, I couldn’t believe that there had not been a club established yet,” said Anthony Zamora, 26, a political science major and the club’s first president. The members of the OVC felt it was time there was a veterans presence, he said.
Zamora, who served in the Army, has been working since early last semester to get the OVC club running and putting time into reaching the veterans that attend SF State.
“Right now we have about 15 active members, with a base of a couple hundred veterans on campus that actually know of us, but are unable to make meetings,” said Zamora.
One of the major developments that he and other supporters of the OVC have effected is the new priority registration date for veterans. The priority registration, which will start with summer classes in 2008, allow students who are veterans or members of the armed forces to register for classes on the first day of registration along with athletes and disabled students.
“I think the campus has made a very helpful move because they came together and made a priority registration date for veterans that have a DD-214, not just operation Iraqi freedom vets but veterans as a whole are included.”
Zamora said he thinks this is a great idea considering that the majority of veterans that are going to school are trying to get financial reimbursement from GI bills, which they can’t collect until they are registered in classes.
“Waiting for that has been a hardship on many veterans. I know myself I would not have any money until a few months into the semester.”
Zamora and other members of SF State worked to bring the OVC and all veterans on the SF State campus a welcoming atmosphere by creating a smoother transition to campus life.
“Three different administrative faulty members, Ernst Sorcoase, Sandi Fonsworth and Brain Gallegr, have been advisers and contributed to the OVC just out of their spare time. They have helped a lot,” said Zamora.
Before the OVC, vets received help from what is called the Veterans Corner in the admissions building.
One SF State employee, Sandi Fonsworth, handles all the veterans that apply to SF State
“Sandi is the benefits specialist for the Veterans Corner on campus. She helps to verify that students are veterans,” said Ernst Sorcoase, an undergraduate adviser.
Sorcoase said that priority registration had been discussed for a while and some campuses already provide it for their veterans. He felt it was time that SF State gave their veteran students the same benefits.
Although everyone has their own opinions on the Iraqi war, the veterans on campus want to help others by sharing their firsthand accounts of physically being in Iraq.
Zamora said his political science professor, John St.. Croix, has found veterans a positive presence in classes.
“He was able to relate his experiences as a solider in our class to current events and he had a really critical point of view, something I think was great for other students to hear,” he said.
St. Croix said that he is glad to hear there is a club for veterans because they are in need of a support system. “People who have served our country abroad have a lot of adjusting to do in society alone, add that to either going to school for the first time or going back to school, that’s a tough transition,” said St.. Croix.
Samuel Fitzer, 23, vice president of the OVC, came from the Marine Core and was surprised to hear that around 150 veterans went to SF State. “Most vets I meet don’t talk about going back to school, they talk about getting into the work force,” said Fitzer.
Fitzer said he was amazed that so many vets chose SF State because of San Francisco’s history of anti-war rallies.
“There’s not a lot of warmth or welcome for veterans when you think about SF state,” he said.
The OVC club is trying to change this viewpoint by hosting fundraisers, having outings like bowling and weekly meetings for the members and supporters to speak out on their daily lives and how to improve the school experience for veterans on the SF State campus.
For many, the club is a support system that no other service on campus seems to provide. For Fitzer, the OVC is a way to get the word out to students who don’t understand veterans of the Iraq war.
“We want to show San Francisco State there’s a new voice on campus,” said Fitzer. “Just because we served in the military it doesn’t make us animals, it doesn’t make us machines. We’re human beings just like everyone else.”
Since SF State has only one outlet for veterans to find help, the goal of the OVC is to do all the functions that the Veterans Corner is not providing.
“One of the goals the vets club has is to link other vets with benefits and services,” said Fitzer. “This is what you earned for your time in the service.”
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