Student veterans speak to civilian peers in new book: See Me for Who I Am
With humor, honesty, and thoughtfulness, See Me For Who I Am: Student Veterans’ Stories of War and Coming Home confronts civilian perceptions of the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran community. The collection offers powerful stories from 20 young student veterans trying to help bridge the gap that separates them from the American people they fought to protect.
Edited by David Chrisinger, an instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the book is based on a course he teaches “Back from the Front: Transitioning from the Military to Civilian Life.” The unique course, featured in USA Today College in November 2014, helps new student veterans create a support network and learn skills necessary for college success.
Written for both veterans and civilians, See Me For Who I Am illustrates servicemembers’ shared experiences, explains the fulfillment of combat, and describes what going to war really entails. Their stories challenge stereotypes and helps to create dimensionality beyond news headlines of veterans as “heroes” or “monsters.”
Inspired and enlightened by his students’ passion and perspective, Chrisinger developed the book not only for veteran students looking for an outlet to share their own stories with those who may struggle to understand, but also for civilians as a “glimpse behind the curtain.”
Veterans have historically been an underrepresented population in higher education. While education benefits have increased in recent years, military and veteran students continue to face unique challenges. Higher education has looked to solve these different challenges through a variety of means, including but not limited to: specialized advising services; training staff and faculty on military and veteran issues; increased mentorship opportunities; appropriate use of language & culture recognition; and broadening the acceptance of transfer credit.
“They [student/veterans] care deeply about ‘accomplishing the mission’ and approaching problems from a pragmatic and intelligent perspective,” Chrisinger explains. “They don’t shy away from pain or discomfort, and when things get hard, they seem to get tougher… They may not have known exactly what they were in for when they enlisted, but they did so because they wanted to be a part of something and to serve a purpose.”
According to Chrisinger, “These writers didn’t spill their guts. They ripped open their shirts and said, ‘This is me. This is who I am. Who are you?’”