A Veterans guide to Surviving College

This guide on Veterans in College was created by Antonio Hendricks, a student at the University of Montana, Army Veteran, devoted father, coach, and of course “Student”.

Veterans and College:

9 times out of 10 you can spot the Veteran on a College Campus, or at least the newly inundated.  They are usually the ones in the Grunt Style or Art15 shirts, camouflage back packs, patches on something, and an attitude that says they are better than you. I know this doesn’t make for a bad person, but  automatically they are separated, a person apart from the norm, and screams that person is still fully ingrained in their past.  The truth being, most of us can relate to that person, why, because we were probably them in one fashion or another.

Don’t get me wrong, a person’s military service is most likely a large portion of who they are/were and I know for me it definitely is.  But, like all things there is  a time and place for everything.

So You’ve Decided to Go to School…Now What?


When I started day 1 I had a thought that continually went through my mind: What the hell am I doing here??  This was immediately followed by the subsequent ideas of: Why did I decide to go to college, What am I going to study, and most of all How do I accomplish this goal? All of which were finished with: WTF??

On a more serious note, the biggest fear I have heard from other students-veterans (including myself), is the insecurity of being in the same cohort as a bunch of 18 year old, fresh out of high school kids. Are you embarrassed or ashamed of what they might think of you being the “old person” in their class, probably assuming that you failed out before? We were all worried about this at some point.

I can’t even begin to describe the amount of times those thoughts went through my mind when I first started.  I though that I had a goal, I thought I had a path to follow, and I thought most of all that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

The facts were: I didn’t know anything!!

So I did what many do, I stumbled; and then I sought advice.  Advice from people who had been where I was and could hopefully provide me some level of guidance to get me on the right path.  Using these mentors, many whom were very similar to the ones I had in the military, I found a way to navigate this new obstacle.

So……what do we do to be successful???

The things I found that have allowed me to be successful are simple, and quite honestly the same ones that got me through my time in the military!

  1. Do the Work:  I can’t tell you how simple this is and yet so many people refuse to do it.  You will constantly see people that don’t do the work and then complain about why they aren’t successful.
  2.   Be Accountable: Just like the military taught us. Be at the right place, at              the right time, with the correct stuff and you’ll never be wrong. Don’t                 worry about the people coming in 15 minutes late or not at all.  It’s your   education not theirs.
  3.  Humanize Yourself: I cant tell you the amount of times that introducing myself to a professor has allowed me to separate myself from the pack.  Showing your Professor that you care enough to have them know your name (in a good way) can make or break a person in a class and maybe help you over that hump between passing and doing really well.
  4. Ask for Help: This one is probably the hardest for anyone and for me was the hardest to get good at.  If you don’t know something ask.  If you are unsure of something ask.  If you need help…..ASK!! Recognizing that we all need help sometimes, put down the pride, or the fear and ask those around you.  Chances are they know the answer or have the same questions you do and like anything there are strengths in numbers.


Final Thoughts:

Is college a struggle?  Yes.

Does it take a lot of work? Yes.

Can it be made easier? Yes.

Those four things are by no means all encompassing, and for me are merely just what helped to get me through and to the point where I am at now.

Should you take the advice, that is entirely up to you, but like anything there are things that make the journey harder or easier.

Moral of the story:  Apply yourself, do everything in your power to succeed and and leave as little as possible to chance.

College even this late can be an amazing experience if you allow it to be and like the military you have the opportunity to create memories that will remain with you forever.

At the end of the day, be proud that you won’t let fear stop you. Be proud that you are willing to face the stigmas and do something for your future. And god forbid, attempt to be a mentor or a friend to some of those young kids that probably feel just as lost as you.

Think Government Healthcare is a good idea? Join the Army.

While in the US Army from 2009-2013, I got to experience and listen to many stories from individuals that had received sub-par medical services at the hands of Army Docs. Anytime one of us had to visit a military facility, there was constant harassment of the atrocious things that we believed would happen to that poor bastard when he went in. And it was always funny as long as you weren’t that poor bastard. These jokes didn’t come from nowhere however, and the ranks were full of true stories that made our jokes hit just a little too close to home. Here are two of the best ones that I have heard. Government Healthcare at its finest. While the situations are undoubtedly serious, it wasn’t me in that chair. So you can laugh, cringe, cry, or sob at these, but I knew these guys. And I think it’s funny.

…Staff Sergeant Johnson, of the US Army, laid back onto the large chair in an Army dental office while the doctors and assistants bustled about. He watched them as they busily moved equipment into and out of the room in preparation for the procedure. An IV stand here, a tray of instruments there. Everything was sterile and ready to take care of the man. The nurse finally approached the waiting patient and prepared the gas that would render him unconscious for the duration of the dental work. The assistant asked if he was ready and lowered the mask onto his face.

“Just take a few deep breaths and we’ll see you in a little while Mr. Smith”

Mr. Smith? That’s not right. The Staff Sergeant was fading quickly and barely mumbled,

“I’m not Smith I’m Johnsonnn….”

And that was the last thing he remembered until he woke. Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, he was scheduled for a root canal. Luckily for our Sergeant Johnson, the assistant heard his last minute confession and searched his pockets to find his ID. After confirming they had the right guy and the right file in the same room, they performed the correct procedure. I think the story would have been more fun if he would have gotten the unnecessary root canal.


The next story is one that could have been much more serious than a sore jaw, but the remedy to the situation was much more personal.

…Sergeant Akers knee was swollen to twice the size it should have been before he decided that it was time to go in. His wife drove him to the clinic and he hobbled into the ER. It was a busy night and they waited… and waited… and waited. Finally he was taken back to be seen and a flustered doctor blew in to the room a few minutes later. After a quick examination and few questions, the doctor concluded that all was needed was for Akers to “man up” and put some ice on it. Not happy with the answer, but with no other recourse, he hobbled back home.

A few days later, his leg would no longer fit into his uniform and nothing was getting better. It was time to go back in and try again. This time it turned out much differently for him however. Akers had an infection in his knee and was only a day or two away from facing an almost certain amputation. Long story short, he had to have what is called a PICC line inserted. A PICC line is essentially an IV that can be used for an extended amount of time and goes almost directly to the heart. So Akers is getting this inserted under his left arm and they start pushing fluid into the PICC line. This immediately caused him to lose his vision and fade to unconsciousness rapidly. Not normal. When he came to a short time later, he was understandably leery of trying again. The doctor however didn’t feel the same way. He looked at Akers, shrugged, and said,

“Hell, lets try again. See what happens.”

Akers can be a little rowdy anyways and at this point was having no more. When the doctor reached for the plunger, Akers reached out and got a firm hold on his manhood. Looking him right in the eyes, he calmly told him,

“We’re not going to do anything that neither of us want, right?”

Now that he had his attention, they sat there awkwardly and waited for the commander of the hospital to pay the two new best friends a visit. Turns out he was allergic to the medication that was being given to him and the situation was just as serious as Akers believed. Good thing for Akers he wasn’t shy.


These stories are just two of many such experiences throughout our armed forces. However, don’t misinterpret these stories. The armed services are full of consummate professionals who are excellent healthcare providers. These stories are simply a product of the system that they are forced to operate in. Overworked and understaffed is many times the norm in these facilities. These stories are meant to be humorous, and not meant to demean those in the medical services. However, the stories are a product of Government Healthcare and should also serve as a warning to those that believe it would be a good idea.