Veterans' Voices: Creating A Space For Veterans On Campus
When a veteran leaves the service and settles in at a campus, they can miss being with other men and women who share their experiences. The Veterans and Military Center (VMC) at Wright State University provides a supportive space for the military on campus. Navy veteran Akoni Hinojosa and Army veteran Anthony Heiland, both of Dayton, remember their time as Wright State students, and how their activism led to the formation of the VMC.
Akoni Hinojosa (AH1): I just got out of the military in June of that year, 2012. So, I went to Wright State trying to find fellow vets because I had nobody here in Dayton, Ohio. So, I just decided to go out and see what kind of groups were on campus.
Anthony Heiland (AH2): Short story, short version. I come to Wright State as a veteran of two tours. I figured there'd be somewhere where I could get involved and try to, you know, keep making a difference and doing everything, and I didn't find anything.
AH1: Sorry. That's my son being grumpy.
AH2: The 2-year-old was being bad. He had to be escorted out. He was disobeying direct orders.
AH1: I’m sorry about that. Our Veterans’ Center…
AH2: The Veterans Education Office, which pretty much every state university has one of these in some way, shape or form.
AH1: Right. So, ours was about 10” by 15”. It had a couch and a desk in it. Right? And so we were like, we don't have a place to hang out. Where can we hang out? We're not going to hang out on the quad with a bunch of kids. And so, it became a really big issue for a lot of vets. And so, what we ended up doing was we formulated a… We kind of made up our minds that we wanted an actual center, and by center we mean we wanted two couches and a T.V.
AH2: Yeah. Until they came back and said they'd actually do it. Absolutely. Absolutely. So, I mean there were a lot of different people that were involved in this. But I remember when they did come back… I really didn’t believe it when they said how much they were going to invest.
AH2: That's what blew me away.
AH1: That's when we actually started to really understand how much the student population actually supported vets. Because we had over three thousand signatures.
AH2: Wright State at that point, and even still, honestly. I love that place. I still to this day am impressed. When you're in the service, you have your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines. They’re your network there, they’re your group. Whether they drive you crazy or you love them, you always have a support group around you. Unless you're in really terrible units, in which case that sucks. But when you transition into this new role as a student and you lose your way here and there, places like the VMC have done a really great job building this support structure for that demographic of student.
Army veteran Anthony Heiland and Navy veteran Akoni Hinojosa spoke at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.