Last updateFri, 23 Mar 2018 1pm


Life at Monmouth as a Veteran

Life Monmouth VeteranMonmouth University has over 110 military affiliates, including 84 that fall under veteran status. People often think of the old man in a faded Army green camouflage jacket or WWII Navy base-ball hat when someone says ‘veteran’. However, many veterans on campus are under the age of 27 and are attending classes just as any other student would be.

Michael Callahan, Coordinator of Veteran Services who served in the Army from 2006-2010 and was deployed to Iraq twice said, “There’s this perception that there is a monolithic military experience. There’s individual experiences from being in the military.”

 “Most [students who are veterans] are under the age of 26, so they fit in developmentally and age wise as a college senior,” Callahan said. Veterans and active military members on campus blend in with fellow classmates, but confusion may arise when translating experiences to peers or in the classroom.

An anecdote a veteran student may have shared in class is some-thing that can be concerning to a professor and consulting faculty is important. “I have to explain that they’re just comfortable in your class,” he said.

Callahan suggested the way to improve smooth veteran transitions into a university setting would be programmatic events or resources to make campus life more comfortable.

Rocco Puzzo, a first year communication student, joined the army a year after high school said,

“5:30 am PT, 6:30 salute flag,” Puzzo described his mornings as an infantryman. Sleep was always the last thing to be considered and was often on cots or the ground. Puzzo said, “It’s very different than being a college student. Gun maintenance and then personal hygiene, then it’s time to eat, maybe one to two minutes for that. At the end of the day I wanted to make sure I did what I needed to do.”

Puzzo tries to stay physically active because he never knows when he could get called back.

“Before I joined I was family oriented. I was a complete romantic,” he admits these parts of him may have changed since enlisting. “I love poetry. I don’t show emotion as much from being in the military. The nine months I was deployed, it was all males. I used to go to church every Sunday, but with physical training, it got harder to do.”

Christopher Montalvo, a junior history and political science student served in the U.S Marine Corps (USMC) and said account-ability was one of the best things he got out of his training that can be carried over into every-day life. “Self-accountability, be where you’re supposed to be on time, the ability to adapt, to over-come differences in each other, time management, and applying yourself to succeed and the fundamentals and being able to group that and use it in practical application,” he explained.

Montalvo travelled to Japan, Thailand, Korea, Afghanistan, Africa, Spain, and different parts of Europe while enlisted in the Marine Corps. “It opens perceptions and makes it easier to adapt. You’re training with other nations’ forces you get to know one another,” he said.

“If I’m 27 I’m not going to re-late to the 17 year old. My friends on campus are mostly veterans because I can relate to them. It’s still a comradery even if we’re from different branches,” Montalvo continued, “Once you’re in there it’s more about brother-hood.”

Matthew Cohen, first-year computer science student served in the USMC from July 2012 to July 2016.

“I definitely appreciate my freedom. When you’re in the military you don’t have a lot of the Bill of Rights,” Cohen said. As a student, Cohen realized he had to change his mind set to do classwork and not a job he was trained to do and that his fellow classmates would not always be able to understand. “Usually students don’t get it but they think ‘it’s cool.’ Older professors are so intrigued by it. Political science and history are really interested in it,” Cohen said.

“I wanted college to be paid for. I definitely wanted to serve my country. I felt it would sound corny if I said that first,” Cohen said. He went on to reveal a shy pride that many members of the military share. “I didn’t want to sound like a ‘boot’ which is military jargon for a new person in the military or USMC; and they just don’t get it yet and that’s something they would say very enthusiastically and for the guys who have been in, we look at that as a joke,” he said.

Cohen further explained what it sounds like to veterans, “You have to earn the right to serve your country, it’s not just making it past boot camp, anyone can do that. It would mean more if a master gunnery sergeant, a high ranking officer who you know has been through it, than if a boot said it.”

“I feel like everyone thinks that people in the military have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that’s just not true,” Cohen revealed. There are people that unfortunately suffer from severe PTSD due to traumatic combat experiences, but Cohen expressed that does not apply to every military personnel. “I thought I would be going to Afghanistan or Iraq, or jumping out of airplanes or helicopters all the time but you might do that once a year,” Cohen said. Another misconception that new recruits and civilians have is how much combat a soldier will actively be a part of.

Cohen was in Japan for two years and said, “You really appreciate the culture. It’s really cool to live in another country and see how they operate and how it compares to how we operate. They were very used to military; we’ve been there since 1945 and actually owned it in the 1970s. That’s Okinawa island, Japan. They tolerate us but any incident between a marine and locals can become an international issue.”

Taking accountability for themselves or things done in-correctly is something all three veterans found to be a substantial quality they gained from be a part of the military.

On November 13th there will be an event called “Ask a Veteran” in Anacon Hall. “The point of it is to give honest feedback and honest answers. Recruiters will sugarcoat it as much as possible; they don’t always tell you the facts, so people who want to join the military get to really understand what it’s about,” Puzzo said.

PHOTO TAKEN by Coral Cooper


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