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The Daily Tar Heel

Student veterans face tough transition on campus

From left to right, Jacob Hinton, President, Lara Taylor, and Steven Chickos, Vice President, of the Carolina Veterans Organization meet to discuss the organization's upcoming plans for veterans on campus.
From left to right, Jacob Hinton, President, Lara Taylor, and Steven Chickos, Vice President, of the Carolina Veterans Organization meet to discuss the organization's upcoming plans for veterans on campus.

“I got out Dec. 24, 2010, and I immediately enrolled for that January semester in 2011,” he said.

Chickos, now the vice president of the Carolina Veterans Organization, was disappointed with the resources UNC offered when he first came to campus.

“There weren’t a lot of resources to cater toward the difficulties that some of the student veterans had,” Chickos said. “I think that was the worst part of it.”

After years of hearing from advocates, UNC is starting to make real progress connecting student veterans to more services.

After coming to UNC from George Mason University, Assistant Dean of Students Brian Papajcik started the Green Zone program, which trains faculty to issues veterans face. This fall, the program will be offered to students.

Papajcik said most student veterans have difficulty connecting with their peers in classes.

“How do you go on and collaborate your experience with people who haven’t gone through what you’ve gone through?” Papajcik said.

The organization is planning to create a resource center, which Chickos hopes will create strong relationships for vets.

“We wanted a safe haven for veterans to feel at home,” Chickos said.

But UNC still has a lot of work to do when it comes to providing support for its veterans.

Senior Jacob Hinton, president of the Carolina Veterans Organization, explained how the needs of veterans can be difficult to understand because they aren’t typical freshmen or transfer students.

“Advisers do not know how to work around the G.I. Bill,” he said.

Shane Hale, who works in Davis Library and served five and a half years in the Army before attending UNC, advises the Carolina Veterans Organization part-time. Upon his return, he said he most struggled with not knowing what Facebook was.

“When you come back, you’re behind the times,” he said.

“We’ve gained a lot of momentum,” said Lara Taylor, a 2014 UNC graduate and a founding member of the Carolina Veterans Organization . “I think Carolina will be a great place for veterans to come.”

Hale said he’d like to see better understanding from other students.

“You kind of feel invisible,” Hale said. “Sometimes you get some disrespect from other people due to their view of the military, and they don’t agree with the politics of the war you went to, even though you had no choice.”

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