The Veteran Experience:
A Compassionate Understanding of PTSD
When transitioning from the military to the civilian sector, many of us tacitly seek other veterans as a source of the very comfort that we grew accustomed to while active. The task of spotting fellow veterans isn’t always as difficult as one would imagine. The personal struggles of those veterans, however, can be as elusive as time.

In the special operations community, there is often an unfortunate tendency to suggest that a direct correlation exists between PTSD and time spent in the carnage of actual combat. The validity of any PTSD claim must, therefore, be buttressed by a proportionate degree of combat experience. I, too, have been guilty of this type of flawed logic in the past. This sort of judgment, however, inflicts a terrible injustice upon our sister and brother veterans across the board.
     
It became apparent to me shortly after beginning my very first semester of college. Conversations with other veterans regarding our struggles seemed slightly off. As if, in some manner, my experience in special operations cast too large of a shadow in terms of who could have a legitimate claim of PTSD. I noticed my brothers and sisters shy away from any sort of contribution to the conversation, and when I asked why that was the case; the answer often given echoed an all too familiar tone. Several of my fellow student-veterans subscribed to the idea that their personal experiences dwarfed in comparison to those of combat veterans, thus effectively negating any value of their personal claims of affliction, or so they allowed themselves to believe.     

These are ill-conceived tendencies, and we have an obligation to correct them.

As I presented this topic as a potential article to some of my student-veteran teammates, and as I discussed it in greater detail, the room fell silent. Then one of our newer members, Derek Cohen, said it plainly, “It’s comforting to know that I don’t have to measure up to a gun fighter just to have my personal struggle validated”. In that instant, he captured the very essence of this article.
As I see it, everyone who has served in the military has a potentially valid claim to PTSD. Let me explain. Each and every one of us who has served has had to endure, at a minimum, our respective branch’s boot camp. This means that we were each plucked out of our civilian lives, albeit voluntarily, and placed into a total institution. The very objective of these institutions is to strip away the identity of the individual, in order that a cohesive working unit is constructed. While boot camp itself may not seem too damaging for some of us, who are we to judge those with a different perspective? This stripping of individuality and forging of a team is what makes America’s military the mightiest force on Earth. It does not, however, come without its share of potentially damaging experiences for some. There should be no presumption regarding the emotional thresholds of our brothers and sisters in arms. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.     

I have met some of the greatest people, of which I am proud to call my fellow veterans, who have seemingly endured much greater emotional struggles in capacities nowhere in the proximity of a battlefield. Holding others to a standard simply because some of us may have passed through seemingly unscathed does an incredible disservice to all parties involved, and it is cause for the alienation of those most in need of a welcoming and tight-knit community.   
 
When transitioning, it is imperative that we bear this in mind, lest we lose compassion for our teammates.

The veteran community is our team on the outside. Let’s make the commitment to each other early on.

-Written by Mario Romero
“It became apparent to me shortly after beginning my very first semester of college. Conversations with other veterans regarding our struggles seemed slightly off.”
Mario Romero 
ABC 10 News'
Salute to Military Heroes
In 2015 Mario Romero, who was our Vice-President at the time, was chosen to be featured on ABC 10 News' Salute to Military Heroes. Here is his story:

Tell me and I forget.
Teach me and I remember.
Involve me and I learn.

- Benjamin Franklin

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It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.

- Aristotle

Limitless Potential

Written By Jordan Agricula 10/22/2016
Freddy Cervantes joined the Marine Corps in July 2010 to July of 2014 when he decided to leave the military and pursue higher education. I was able to sit down with Freddy to talk about what brought him to San Diego Mesa College, his experiences here, and what he has planned next.
So Freddy, what made you decide to go back to school after the military?

In the military you are only challenged so much because you get to a point where you can not process any further. I wanted to step away from that and explore beyond my regular military routine, and there is no better place to learn than in school. Having started I've had so many doors open for me, that I'm still deciding which one to walk into.

How did you decide to attend San Diego Mesa College?

This story is actually kind of funny. A couple of months before my contract with the Marine Corps finished I was going to move to San Jose to attend a community college. I had family, friends, and "the girl" waiting for me. My plans changed however, after speaking with my best friend, who attended Mesa and is now at Columbia University. We talked, and after that talk I decided to move to San Diego 2 weeks before Fall of 2014 started. I left everything I had waiting for me behind and never regretted it, I even consider it to be the best decision I've ever made thus far.

You've been very busy while you have been at Mesa, and one of those things was perticipating in Stanford's 2 to 4 Program over the summer. Can you talk about how you learned about the program and what your experience was like?

​I found out about the program from two other veterans at Mesa, Josh Hilke and Ryan Loper. They were both thinking about doing it and asked me to sign up with them, so I did. To say I had a good time would be an understatement. This program pays for summer school at Stanford, for the duration of 2 months. You get to live in the dorms with Stanford students. While there, I did so much cool stuff like visiting Google, LinkedIn, Virtual Reality Lab, as well as different engineering departments, and so much more. I was in a classroom with Stanford students hooking and jabbing and I fended off fairly well. I would strongly recommend any veteran to sign up for this program. Oh, and you get an official Stanford transcript!

That sounds like an amazing opportunity. You are also involved with PTK. How did you get involved and why should other veterans look into joining?

I got involved with PTK over the summer while at Stanford. It used to have a big presence on campus 2 years ago, but while at Mesa I never heard about it until I got the Dean's List email and it mentioned PTK. Since then I have been working on bringing back its presence on campus. I recently became the chapter president and have an amazing team. I highly recommend other veterans to join PTK because they poses sound leadership which the chapter needs more of. PTK also has private scholarships, events, and conferences offered only to members. The overall mission of PTK is to promote scholarships and promote better academic leaders in the community. Plus, to add your membership onto your application really helps when applying to private schools.

Even with doing all this you still set time aside to volunteer. How did you decide to get involved in volunteer work, and why should others dedicate their free time to volunteer?

I initially looked towards the Big Brother Big Sister Program. However, their schedule conflicted with my current ​school schedule so that was out of the question. Thankfully, I was able to become  a part of the team at the Boys and Girls Club in Solana Beach with the help of my friend, Daisy Auilar. I strongly believe others should dedicate some of their time to doing some form of continuour volunteering. What I have come to learn is that this has made me more humble in life. I get a sense of accomplishment and I know I am doing the right thing, much like when I was in the Marine Corps. You get that sense of purpose back, not only that but you get the chance to change or affect the life of others in a positive way. The feeling you get doing so is something not many people get to experience.

Any advice for incoming student veterans?

USE THE VETERANS RESOURCE CENTER!!! Honestly, my first semester I kind of avoided being in there, I was like "ewww" because it reminded me too much of the military. However, the moment I actually went in there things changed for me. I met some of the most academically driven people in the VRC. That determination rubbed off on me. I remember walking in talking about how UCSD was my top choice, and now I walk out of there everyday thinking about whether I want to go to Stanford, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, or perhaps maybe even Harvard.