Student veterans reflect on service, educational goals

Kris Wright Jr, Age 31,  Lane student second year, studying physical therapy Served in the U.S. Army as a tanker
Kris Wright Jr, Age 31,
Lane student second year, studying physical therapy Served in the U.S. Army as a tanker

When did you get out of the Army?

I got out in 2010. Actually, I had gotten recalled into the Army because I was still in the eight-year window. I had been out for two years and they said, “You are coming back to Iraq.” The cool thing was that I had a job, but I wasn’t happy about it.

How was the transition from military to civilian life?

That was a very difficult area in life. You know in military everything is black and white. You never have to make a decision on what you have to wear that day as long as you wear it and wear it right. I suppose transitioning to the civilian world it took a lot transitioning to not having that structure, which was almost damning at some points. Because you have been in the military, especially in a unit that has been so hardcore, everyone communicates the same. Then you get into the civilian world. It’s just the melting pot. It was very difficult to transition back.

What made you decide to come to Lane?

I was living in Albany going to Linn-Benton Community College and I needed to move to an area that was just more culturally diverse. Eugene actually has a diversity that I look for because it sometimes helps with the healing process of being person with PTSD. I can go to the bars around here and not worry that I am going to get stabbed by a terrorist. That’s the hardest part of those triggers. Like if I see a box on the side of the road I think it’s an improvised explosive device and I am done for. That’s the hardest part about transitioning, getting out of that state of mind, especially after being in a heavy combat zone like it was in 2005. It was a bad area. The transition is made entirely easier, especially coming here with the <br/>Veterans Center. Everything is made accessible, everyone is understanding. That’s what made the transitions, particularly coming to this college, so easy.

What are your long-term educational goals?

My long-term goals are, if i get into the medical field, is to go into the physical therapy area. I want to work for Veterans Affairs. It’s a great field. It’s actually a huge key to being able to have the physical body work again because you can get yourself screwed up really bad over there. When I came back, I had a really good physical therapist, and it made me realize that’s really part of the key, because if your body is getting back to normal your mind is gonna follow. I want to work for the VA because I want to give back to something that has given me the homecoming. I want to give something back to the veterans. If I was to see somebody I would like them to know I’m a veteran, so I can understand.

Kenny Edmondson, Age 34, Lane student second year, majoring in secondary education Served in the U.S. National Guard as medic
Kenny Edmondson, Age 34, Lane student second year, majoring in secondary education,
served in the U.S. National Guard as medic

What was it like coming back from deployment and transitioning to civilian life again?

I lived a life of avoidance. I isolated myself trying to avoid triggers. Like just fire, barbecues — it’s a huge trigger of mine from being a medic from some of the carnage that took place. Just driving down Interstate 5, driving under the overpasses. It’s crazy how the side of the road here looks like the side of the road there. I felt lost. I didn’t have a mission. I found one when my new wife and I delivered my little girl. I did it in a controlled environment at the hospital and the doctor let me help pull her out. When I went to set her on her mom, she grabbed my finger and wouldn’t let go. It was like she pulled me out of my grave. My closest friends say they were on a suicide watch, they knew that there was a possibility I wasn’t going to be here tomorrow. And I didn’t want to be, until my little girl came. She’s 4 and she just <br/>entered kindergarten. She’s in school and she’s like, “All right, Dad. You have to go to school, too.” You know, she kept me alive.

How does your experience as a <br/>combat vet affect you at Lane?

The veterans office here on campus is so helpful. Coming on campus, I always see somebody I was in Iraq with which has been inspiring and helpful. Lane is also accommodating with PTSD — you know, being in a small setting with lots of people, I’ve had teachers that allow me to sit by the door, sit with my back to wall, sit in the corner so I can see everything, you know? They’re understanding.

Because you served in the National Guard the people you served with – they’re present here on campus. That has to make a world of difference.

It does. It really does. If I had been active duty, I could have been stationed on the other side of the country and not know anybody, but that’s not the case at all. I have a community of friends I served with I see regularly.

Brian Davis, Age 28, Lane student first term, majoring in computer science, served in U.S. Marine Corps as a helicopter crew chief
Brian Davis, Age 28, Lane student first term, majoring in computer science, served in U.S. Marine Corps as a helicopter crew chief

How was your transition from active duty to the civilian world?

I got out in April and didn’t go to school over the summer or even over the spring or anything because I needed to take some time and just, kinda, I guess relax … decompress. One of the hardest things is when people are being rude or annoying in class I want to — not yell at them, but correct them. I can’t do that anymore because it is not socially acceptable. Keeping my mouth shut, especially because I was a staff sergeant. It’s hard to me to accept a role not as a mentor and not a leadership role.

Does your experience as a veteran affect your time at Lane?

Not too much. Coming from the service, it is a different culture, a different mentality and whatnot. It’s just adjusting to that.

What are your long-term educational and career goals?

I’m using Lane as a stepping block to a four-year university. Being out of school for 10 years, I didn’t want to go straight to a high-demand university because it would have been a lot going from no schooling to that. So, I’m sort of just planning to use Lane as a way to prepare myself and ease myself into the schooling environment. I am planning on getting my bachelor’s degree at University of Oregon.

Editor’s note: Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.