Student veterans share military experiences

By ALEX LANG | The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va. | Published: November 14, 2012

Following speeches by five WVU veteran students, the small crowd gathered at Clear Mountain Bank's Suncrest location had a chance to ask a few questions.

Senior Phil D'Bourget served during two wars, Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. A Vietnam veteran asked him about the difference in treatment as he returned home from each war.

D'Bourget talked about coming home from Vietnam to the anti-war sentiment and being called a "baby killer." As he returned from Desert Storm, his airplane stopped at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

"As soon as we came out of the ramp ..." D'Bourget said, taking a long pause to collect himself. "When we came out of the ramp, there was a line of people three or four deep there to greet us."

Another pause.

"Waving flags ..."

Again a pause.

"As we went down the aisle, these people were wanting to reach out, shake our hand, pat us on the back and tell us, 'Good job.' "

At the end of the line was a phone bank for soldiers to call loved ones at no charge, he said. "You could see a big difference in how we were ... received by the American public," D'Bourget said. D'Bourget was one of the WVU students who recounted their military stories as part of a class presentation during the annual "Student Veterans Speak Out" on Wednesday.

The class is for veteran students and helps them hone their public speaking skills. Their speeches were geared to, and originally given to, Morgantown High School students.

Sophomore Jason Keffer spoke about his time in the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations and some of the success of the department. Freshman Aulton Davis spoke about his experience during basic training at Parris Island.

Freshman Donna Stehley served in the Marines for more than 25 years. She talked about what training was like for women when she joined. She said they had classes to teach them to put on makeup and had tea parties to practice their etiquette. The physical requirements weren't the same as those for the male recruits.

Today, female and male recruits have equivalent physical requirements, Stehley said. She had a son graduate from the Marines in 1997, and said having a mother-son combination serve is uncommon.

Fellow freshman Chris Morris had an experience unlike his fellow speakers. On Oct. 8, 2009, he was riding in a vehicle when it struck an explosive device. Morris said he doesn't remember much about the incident, but he was hit in the face by debris -- which turned out to be toilet paper and a box of gummy candy.

Morris said he got a ride on a Blackhawk helicopter, which he wished he remembered, and was awarded a Purple Heart. Despite the incident, Morris didn't have a second thought about enlisting.

"I had no regrets about joining the Marine Corps," he said.


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