Vets Club helps veterans adjust to college life

The Yellow Jackets Veterans Club was formed many years ago with the support of Black Hills State University. The Vets Club was created to be a place for the veterans to get together, mingle with each other and get support from friends and advisors. The Vets Club has three main goals, which include helping veterans’ transition from being a soldier to being a student, doing service projects and doing social activities. This club does not only provide a place for all veterans to interact, but also offers them help to adapt and have a normal college student experience as possible.

One of the outstanding members of this club is Fred Nelson, a veteran that served in the Air Force for 12 years and has been involved with the Vets Club for three years helping as an advisor. The experiences Nelson got from being a veteran himself helps him understand the changes other club members are going through and understand their struggles.

“Camaraderie is different in the civilian word in comparison to within the service,” Nelson said.

Nelson also feels that it is important for veterans to have support from others in this transition.

“Coming into a situation where everybody seems kind of the same, it’s scary, especially if it seems like you don’t fit in so good,” Nelson said.

Through this club, he helps others by giving them advice and giving them the necessary tools for other veterans to carry on and adapt to the new lifestyle that being a college student represents.

Another outstanding member is Mike McNeil, but he is not a veteran himself. After helping in the club for five years, he highlights how important it is to teach veterans to translate the skills they’ve learned in the military to the civilian life of higher education.

“Sometimes it’s easier for things to come out when veterans are hanging out with other people who have been through the same experiences,” McNeil said.

McNeil and Nelson share one of their most significant events, the White Table Ceremony. This ceremony is held to commemorate missing soldiers. They place a round table with a white tablecloth to symbolize the purity of the soldiers’ motives when answering the call to duty. On the table, they set a white candle to symbolize peace, a turned over glass to represent the meals that wont be eaten, a slice of lemon to remind people the bitter fate of capture soldiers, and finally salt is also placed to symbolize the tears cried. This is one of the most commendable ceremonies to remember the soldiers that were missing in action.

This year, the Vets Club held the White Table Ceremony on September 20 at the Hive. The ceremony was held during lunch time. The veterans placed one table with all the things mentioned earlier and left it there for an entire day expecting that people would realize what it meant and remember the soldiers who served their country.

“It’s always interesting to see the reaction of the young when they realize things like why is the glass upside down” Nelson said.

The Vets Club hopes to hold this ceremony again on Nov. 11 for Veterans day as well as salute and give a speech to the soldiers who gave their lives for our country. For more information about the Veterans club join the Yellow Jackets Veterans Club on Facebook, contact Mike McNeil at [email protected] or Fred Nelson at [email protected].