An update from Santiago, a communications major and member of U.S. Military Veterans of SMU:

Santiago at the Vietnam Memorial

Walking through the Vietnam War Memorial was a humbling experience. Standing there looking at those names, I thought about the issues all troops faced during this time in history. Forced to leave loved ones, being drafted and trained, experiencing war, the loss of life or serious injuries, feeling remorseful for their actions in war, unknowingly dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, not being welcomed back into their country, minorities facing racisms and prejudices, sexism, homophobia, so on and so forth.

This moment weighed heavily on my heart. It was a very sobering moment. Then I thought about how wonderful that some of these issues are no more – that we have gotten better in some of these issues because of our society acknowledging that they are wrong. Many of these people were military members themselves.

Later that night James, Blake, and Marc – other students from SMU – and I went to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, “Honoring Military Heroes,” that Dr. Rita Kirk graciously acquired for us. Before the concert began, they addressed the serious issue of veteran and military suicide. An article from November 2012 in USA Today indicates that 2012 had record high suicides for military members, over 323. The speaker, who was a U.S. veteran, mentioned that it is the most pressing issue among military and veteran personal, and he mentioned what we can do to help.

Lynyrd Skynyrd honors veterans.

Basically what I got from this concert, and what I have noticed in many places, is that people do really support their troops. And in part it is because veterans have stood up and become the change they wanted to see. It was a Marine veteran who started the Student Veterans of America, “resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.” Such was the case for three student veterans at SMU – James, Ian and I before the fall semester 2011. We wanted student veteran representation, and we made it happen.

Learn about the U.S. Military Veterans of SMU.