OXFORD, MS — As the Department of Veterans Affairs reports a record number of military veterans utilizing GI Bill benefits, many universities have implemented "veteran-friendly policies" to welcome them into the learning environment.
The policies -- such as building dedicated veteran centers and accepting military credits -- come as more student veterans turn to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which allows full tuition payment, a housing allowance, and book stipend to a service member after completing three years on active duty.
But the University of Mississippi has taken veteran-friendliness to a new level with their "Beginning Of High Intensity Classroom Activity Veterans Program."
The veterans program, which the Ole Miss administration refers to simply as BOHICA, is designed to welcome student veterans and help them feel at ease in the college setting.
Ryan Munce, a former foward observer who served six years in the Army, recently began studies at Ole Miss. At first, he felt apprehensive about the new setting, but with the help of the school, he has begun to enjoy college life almost as much as he enjoyed the Army.
"Basically, I felt out of place when I got to school. Everyone was so nice and friendly, and I had so much spare time I didn't know what to do with myself," says Munce. "Once I verified my veteran status with the school though, everything changed for the better."
The changes were evident during a recent sociology class he attended.
Professor Dr. John Murray opened the class with welcoming remarks.
"Good morning class, everyone please take your seats." Murray then turned to Ryan and fellow veteran Chris Zarb, and shouted "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU COCK SUCKS? SIT THE FUCK DOWN AND LISTEN UP!"
Ryan and Chris immediately snapped to the position of attention and took their seats.
At the end of class, Dr. Murray dismissed everyone except the student veterans.
"Ok, I don't know what you two's major malfunction is, but goddamnit we're going to straighten you boots out real quick. Now get this classroom swept up and take the garbage out. You've got a formation in the Grove in 10 mikes and you better not be fucking late."
Ryan and Chris did as instructed but were five minutes late for formation. Upon arrival, they were put in the front leaning rest by admissions counselor Kyle Peto.
"I think this stuff is pretty crazy personally," says Peto. "I prefer to welcome students with kind words and maybe a hug. But the student veterans eat this shit up. I guess they need the structure."
One of the more thoughtful measures to make veterans feel welcome is an ongoing combat simulation in the center of campus. UM has hired a double amputee to play a wounded soldier to lay in the grass with fake blood smeared all over him. Every thirty minutes or so Campus Police will drop artillery simulators and smoke grenades in the area. The amputee will then begin yelling "INCOMING! FUCK, I'M HIT! MEDDDIIIIICCC!"
"While this combat simulation is startling for regular college students, the student veterans absolutely love it," says Peto.
As a veteran of the Marine Corps infantry, Chris Zarb was excited that his school was so adamant about helping military members in the transition to student veterans.
"Everytime I see that guy I just go back into fight mode. All the student vets in the area immediately set up a 360 and someone begins Combat Life Saver on the wounded. The school has even went further and put out a SINCGARS radio for the veterans to send up a 9-Line MEDEVAC. It's really made me feel welcome here."