Invisible Soldiers

November 14, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Bethel veterans fly under the radar on campus

News | Chris DeWuske

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Iraqi War veterans Love Washington (top) and Ryan Turnmire (bottom) both experienced difficulties adjusting to college life after their tours of service. | Photos for The Clarion by Drea Chalmers

This Veteran’s Day, people around the United States honored their military personnel who served to protect their country. At Bethel, the calendar remained vacant to recognize its veterans.

Former active-duty members are currently being under-recognized. Home to over 150 veterans throughout the entire Bethel system, most undergraduate students remain unaware of their presence on campus.

The nursing and athletic training programs are focal points for incoming students. According to former Veterans Resource Center Coordinator, Ryan Turnmire, the Christian atmosphere and holistic approach to education make Bethel an attractive option.

“It’s not in-your-face Christianity. There’s more to Christianity than just theology,” Turnmire said.

By his junior year of high school, he was preparing to enter the Army. He was deployed after graduation for 18 months in Iraq—the longest period a soldier could spend overseas at that time. Upon returning, Turnmire enrolled at Bethel to begin his first undergraduate semester in the spring of 2008.

After difficulty in the CAS program, he signed up for CAPS two years ago to better accommodate his learning.

“Some of the students are quick to judge,” added Turnmire. “I did not go to war because I like to kill people. I went to war because people I knew were going, and I wanted to go with them. I fought for the man on my left and the man on my right.”

Some veterans have found that Behel's counseling services are geared toward the traditional student, making it a poor resource for them.

“I don’t feel like there’s a lot of support for that," senior Love Washington said.

Veterans require a safe place where they can connect with each other, the college and the outside world. It may be difficult for some to integrate themselves into the individualist college environment after being trained to work as a team.

Washington was deployed for 10-months in Basrah, Iraq. Her platoon aided the developmental phase to help set up government and military prior to Iraqi elections. During this period, bombs were still a threat.

“They had a system where they’d bomb every Thursday, so we knew they were coming. It became a routine.”

She returned to the United States in February 2010 with only two days to regroup before starting school. She opted to tour the first day of classes rather than attend them.

The transition to Bethel can also be jarring both financially and academically. While students are able to receive military benefits toward their education, few know where to look to apply.

“A lot of people don’t understand the financial piece of being in the military and what kind of process we go through,” Washington said.

“There are some soldiers here who receive funding, and if they don’t have things done the proper way, they can miss out on an opportunity for that whole semester.”

This affects veterans’ registration and their likelihood to come back.

In fall 2013, undergraduate students weren’t receiving veteran funding through Federal Tuition Assistance.

“I’m not even sure why they weren’t accepting that military funding when that was something that was in students’ contracts to help them through the college process,” Washington said. “When they did bring that back, they didn’t tell. I didn’t get an email, so I missed out twice on a whole semester of funding because I wasn’t told in time. I had to take out extra loans.”

Military experience can also make academics more difficult. Some suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. While faculty members are typically understanding, most are not aware of what veterans have experienced. Turnmire would like to see more literature distributed to raise awareness.

Washington added that while Bethel has been a welcoming place for students in general, there is more that could be done for the veteran community. She would like to see Bethel foster the environment to facilitate more conversations about how faith fits in with the military.

“I think to have a talk about whether Christians should be in war is a really good topic to have, because I personally don’t know what those opinions are.”

According to Turnmire, his position at the Veterans Resource Center from June 2011-2013 was closed. Veteran resources are now only available online, a change that could be harmful to veterans who need community to have an open and honest dialogue about their military experiences.

With different organizations occupying the offices on the main campus, Turnmire remains disillusioned at the lack of support for military members.

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