Veterans services at SFSU help soldiers transition


From the battlefield to the classroom, Shea Caspersen is making the transition from soldier to student. He served with the Army in Afghanistan and completed two tours of duty in Iraq. His latest mission is to use money from the GI Bill to earn a degree in international relations from San Francisco State University.

"One of the hardest transitions that could take place in a human's life to be perfectly honest," said Caspersen.

Last year Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, saluted the veteran students who are there and the university for its outreach. There are 430 military vets on the campus and San Francisco State, with a well-known and long history of anti-war sentiment, is welcoming the warriors with open arms.

The university of 30,000 students has been named one of the nation's top military-friendly schools by GI Jobs Magazine. Vets and their dependents get priority in registration. There are mental health resources, career counseling, and a key component -- the Veterans Center, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary this Veteran's Day. It's a one stop shop run by a former Marine.

"Because of our support team that we've created with the admissions office, financial aid, Bursar's, they can basically come to me when they have a problem and I already have my contacts that, while they are sitting there, I can usually resolve most of the issues," said Rogelio Manaois from the SFSU Veterans Center.

"If I had to wait in line with the 18-year-old kids and talk to somebody who went, 'Wait, you went where? Veterans? Can you just call the VA?' If I had to deal with that, I may not have enrolled," said Former Marine Owen Morris.

Morris, 27, is pursuing a degree in film. This time last year he was in Afghanistan using his cameras to record dangerous missions; college has been an adjustment.

"It's such a surreal existence when you're deployed to a combat zone and then you come home and everybody's biggest complaint is that darn assignment," said Morris.

Their challenges are different. Casperson suffered a traumatic brain injury during combat and now uses a special pen the V.A. bought to help him with his studies.

"It's got a camera right here so it's taking a picture of everything I write," said Casperson.

Resources like that are invaluable. So is the veteran's club on campus, which organizes social events and offers emotional support

"Coming from a world where you have a team, a squad, a platoon, a company, you lose all that. So we're trying to rebuild that community veteran feeling," said Casperson.

Even in these times of devastating budget cuts, the university's president, Robert Corrigan, says this school wants to make sure military vets a priority.

"If we could get more money, both private and in public money, to provide services we would be delighted to receive it because the veterans are well worth the support we can provide," said Corrigan.

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