ORLANDO, Fla. — One of the more troubling anecdotes to come out of the annual Student Veterans of America conference this weekend was just how often former servicemembers face anti-military comments on campus. And it's not just from naive 18-year-olds.
Veterans said they still encounter professors and other faculty who blame them for the Iraq War, resent the generous GI Bill benefits and assume the former troops aren't smart enough to make it to graduation. It's not the norm, they said, but it's something nearly every student veteran has had to deal with at least once in the last few years.
In fact, the group had enough of those anecdotes that former Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr., the featured speaker on Saturday, was asked how veterans should deal with anti-military attitudes at colleges.
His response: Be open to other ideas, and engage with those critics to understand where their ignorance stems from. But he also warned the group that they'll never change everyone's minds, and sometimes they just need to walk away from a stubborn scholar.
Later in the conference, SVA leaders encouraged their chapter leaders to invite not just student veterans but also civilians to on-campus events, to help combat negative attitudes and stereotypes toward military service. "That's how we bridge civilian/military gap," said SVA Executive Director Mike Dakduk.