WSCC Pays Honor to Veterans

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Veterans: You've served your country, now it's time to think of service to yourself

To all veterans of the United States military: you've honorably served your country...now it's time to think of service to yourself. Washington State Community College (WSCC) is honoring local service men and women this Veteran's Day with various campus activities as well as letting veterans know how the College can serve their needs.

November 12- 16 has been designated "Veterans Week" at WSCC. During the week, a wall of gratitude will be set up in the College's main lobby; pens and markers will be available for students and visitors to write notes of gratitude and appreciation to all veterans, including those on campus. Greg Mitchell, career services director and WSCC Veterans Club advisor, has been organizing personal memorabilia from student veterans to be placed in a glass case next to the wall. Campus was closed on Monday, November 12 in recognition of the Veterans Day holiday.

Recognized as a "military-friendly" school, Washington State Community College is home to a population of veteran students who are enhancing their military experience with post-secondary education as the re-enter civilian life.

One such student includes veteran Robert (Bob) Pauley. In 1985 Pauley joined the Army, became a helicopter mechanic, and would serve two years overseas in Germany. He next enlisted in the National Guard, serving his country for the next 24 years. He recently retired after serving a one-year combat tour of duty in Iraq in 2006 through 2007.

"After retirement I spoke with the VA (Veterans Administration) about my next steps, what were my options," explains Pauley. "I began looking into going back to school and found out about Washington State Community College and its opportunities for veterans." He enrolled at WSCC in spring of 2011.

Like many other veterans re-entering the civilian workforce, Pauley found differences between himself and other college students. "There are psychological issues that only those who have served in combat will ever understand, such as what it feels like to lose a friend in war," shares Pauley. "Those issues stay with you forever, but it helps to have supportive instructors at Washington State Community College."

Hearing sounds similar to those in combat, being in enclosed spaces for long periods of time, and having your back to a door or window are just a few physical issues that veterans deal with differently than a typical college student, says WSCC Veterans Club Advisor Greg Mitchell, who previously served in the military.

In a physics class, Bob Pauley explains, a chemical reaction demonstration accidentally let out a loud popping sound, similar to that of a firing rifle. "The teacher found that I had hit the floor, an automatic reaction to hearing that sound. The demonstration wasn't supposed to make that sound, and (the instructor) apologized to me immediately for it having done so. I have found the teachers here are willing to accommodate the veterans and help us in any way possible."

Currently enrolled in the associate of applied science degree in auto diesel mechanics, 47-year-old Bob Pauley is enjoying his experience with WSCC, a designated "Military-Friendly" school. "The Veterans Administration is paying towards my tuition, books, and even school supplies I need, with an additional stipend to help with travel costs," says Pauley.

Veterans encompass a range of qualities that make them superb candidates for employers. "Those who have served time in the military exhibit natural leadership, which is our biggest advantage," says Pauley. "We also know how to cooperate with others, work in a team, and have basic first-aid knowledge that can come in handy anywhere."

However, difficulties still exist in translating military skills into civilian language, Pauley says. "I have teachers working with me so that I can take Independent Studies courses instead of re-taking courses in which I already have the knowledge."

Not only a veteran, but a non-traditional student, Pauley says his experience with fellow, younger students, has been beneficial. The students look up to and respect the experienced veteran.

Bob Pauley is set to graduate with his associate's degree in fall 2013 and plans to find a career in mechanics.

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