Veterans Remember Their Own, Learn to Be Civilians Again
By Sara Kirkley, Weekend Anchor / Reporter - email
Memorial Day can be hard for those veterans remembering their own.
But, by honoring them, an annual event may be helping former soldiers return to civilian life.
Experts say it's important veterans feel welcome.
That's one of the goals of a barbecue in Doniphan put on by student veterans. It's now in its third year.
"Our brothers and sisters gave their lives for this," said Travis Karr, director of Veteran and Military Services at Central Community College.
More than 100 people gathered to remember the fallen and honor them by living their lives.
But, for Iraq War veteran Anthony Chaulk, enjoying normal things like a barbecue is easier said than done.
"I am still in some ways making that transition," said Chaulk. "This is shoving me out of my comfort zone, make me do stuff that I don't want to do, but at the same time I'm around familiar people so it's a little easier."
"You come from a different culture, a different way of life. You come from combat. You come from military experience. You don't feel like you belong even in your hometown," said Karr.
Central Community College is trying to change that. Karr said they're making progress and are now ranked number one among community colleges in veteran and military services.
"We have dedicated Veterans Resource Centers for them and we really want to be their first stop," he said.
Chaulk has made multiple stops as he pursues a degree in Business Administration.
"I have a place in the school that's like a safe zone for me when things get a little out of hand where I can't quite handle it," he said.
Chaulk is talking about the hypervigilence he still feels seven years after returning home.
It's a feeling veterans at Monday's barbecue - young and old - can relate to.
"We all come home to the same things," said Russ Barth, a Vietnam veteran from Doniphan who attended the event.
There's about 21.2 million veterans living in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. Nearly 147,000 of them live here in Nebraska.