Veteran’s Resource Fair Brings Out Services–and Emotions at Saddleback

Booths at the resource fair – Photo by Jackson Guilfoil

On Thursday, a Mission Viejo community college held a resource fair for veterans, with everyone from campus resources to the Veterans Administration.

A plethora of organizations set up booths at Saddleback College’s 11th annual resource fair, which meant to help veterans from all walks of life, student and otherwise. Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, whose jurisdiction includes the college, showed up to give a speech about countywide plans to help veterans, which include the county’s plan to end veteran homelessness by 2020.

“A lot of big colleges look at Saddleback and they see how the faculty is transforming,” said Orlando Ambriz, a student veteran. “There’s always someone to talk to if you need help.”

Ambriz credited the amount of veterans on campus with the relatively close by Marine base Camp Pendelton, but he also cited Saddleback’s reputation as a good school for veterans. The school has a Veteran’s Education and Transition Services Center, or VETS Center, which aims to help veterans adjust from military life to a classroom setting.

Other schools such as UCLA and San Diego State University also had booths at the event.

The VETS Center helps veterans on campus find a community of people from similar backgrounds, and helps the former soldiers transition to student life better, according to Ambriz.

However, sometimes the transition between a regimented military lifestyle and that of an independent student contains friction.

“Some of us get pretty pissed off at civilians,” said Robert Holmes, an active duty Navy corpsman planning on transferring to the college. “It eases when you have community”

Holmes cited frustrations with the way civilians converse with each other as a source of contention, explaining that what may be normal human interaction for civilians could be an etiquette breach for a veteran.

Saddleback has 1,420 self-declared veterans on campus out of 25,879 students total, though according to Kolin Williams, a veteran’s counselor on campus, some choose not to report their status. The reasons why some vets choose not to use the G.I. Bill can vary, but Williams said many feel negatively about their service and might refuse government money because of that.

Williams said that the diversity of the veterans on campus is partially what makes the community effective at addressing all of their needs, be it study help or counseling.

Ambriz disagrees with Holmes in that he sees interactions between veterans and traditional college students as learning experiences for both sides, rather than a potentially irritating situation.

“The learning environment of mixing veterans and civilians … there’s an outrageous amount of learning,” Ambriz said. “Some of these younger guys teach veterans how to learn.”

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