Photo by Jeylin White
Many war veterans proudly wore some of their military attire during the grand opening ceremony, on Friday, for the new Veterans Resource Center, at Clayton State University.
Transitioning back into civilian life has not been easy for Andrew Quintero, a soldier in the United States Military for 11 years. Quintero has been deployed three times to Iraq and said during his second deployment he watched 27 of his close friends lose their lives on the battlefield.
After Quintero returned home to begin his freshman year at Clayton State University, those flashbacks led to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now the school has a place to help him cope. On Friday, university officials and military personnel held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the Veterans Resource Center, located in the Students Resource Center, room 115, on the Morrow campus.
It’s a place for veterans who attend the university and find themselves dealing with nightmares from the battlefield. It will offer information and resources and provide them with a sense of camaraderie and peer support.
“The transition is different for everybody — it depends on what you have been through,” said Quintero. “Post-traumatic stress disorder is a real thing and we have to deal with it at our own terms.”
Military veteran Candi Belle, who graduated from Clayton State in 2010, agreed.
“It’s a very difficult thing for people to expect us to just come back from combat and acclimate into society,” said Belle, who retired from the military in 2008. “It’s a difficult process and were seeing the result of [post traumatic stress] from exposure to many traumatic episodes.”
The idea to create a center for Clayton State’s vets came from Shiraz Karaa, associate director and training coordinator of Counseling and Psychological Services. Karaa counsels veterans like Quintero and Belle, who are having difficulty dealing with the aftermath of war. She said it was in 2008 when she realized there was a need for the center.
“I thought there needed to be something on campus to offer extra support for these group of people,” said Karaa.
She added the initiative for the Veterans Resource Center was formed from the Student Veterans Association. She said Clayton State University holds the distinction of being named a “military friendly” campus, received a $20,000 grant from the Board of Regents to establish the center.
Karaa, Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Haynes and Clayton State University President Thomas (Tim) Hynes offered remarks during Friday’s ceremony. Retired Brigadier General Robert L. “Steve” Stephens, Clayton State vice president for external relations and executive assistant to the president, also spoke, as did Edwin Starks, student veterans association president.
“We should work all year long to take care of our veterans,” Starks said. “I hope you student veterans will take pride in the center and keep it clean.”
Commander Tony Dobbins, with local Veterans of Foreign Wars, presented a $400 check to buy supplies for the center. Student veteran Valerie Lewis presented a U.S. flag she brought back from her deployment in Afghanistan.
“I look forward to seeing the [center] grow, thrive, and serve its vision and mission: To create a seamless transition into higher education for Military Service Members and their spouses and dependents and to provide service members with a welcoming and dedicated venue to assist them in achieving academic excellence,” Karaa said.