War stories bring veterans together

By Edgar Estrada and Hailey Creighton/reporters

A panel of veterans shared experiences from their time in service at The Veterans Experience from World War I to Today discussion Nov. 6 in the SE Campus library.

Air Force veteran and SE English lecturer Francis Suarez shared her most memorable experience during basic training.

“I got off that bus with 49 women,” Suarez said. “My male training instructor says, ‘First word out of your mouth better be sir!’ I knew I was in trouble then.”

The panel is one of a series of events funded by an $1,800 grant from the Library of America, SE library assistant director Tracey Minzenmayer said.

“The grant lets us put on programs about World War I, and it ties into what current veterans are experiencing,” Minzenmayer said.

Unlike past veterans, current combat veterans receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, said Randall Weatherspoon, an Army veteran and SE success coach.

“Where the military does a great job now is when you come back, you get treated for PTSD,” Weatherspoon said. “During World War II when you came back, you had PTSD. It wasn’t treated back then. They didn’t know what it was. People just thought you were scared or shell-shocked.”

Other veterans suffered the uncertainty that comes with being married to another service member who have experienced similar challenges and obstacles.

“Sometimes, we would only have two days’ notice before he deployed,” Navy veteran Deborah Thomas said about her husband’s deployments.

Despite the obstacles of military life, all the panelists agreed it was an experience they do not regret.

“I got to travel the world for free,” Air Force veteran James Foreman said.

“Travel the world and also get job skills,” Thomas added.