While training in a sniper platoon for the Marine Corps, infantry rifleman Miles Vining learned the importance of keeping all bags and gear zipped or buttoned while on the go to avoid losing anything.
This habit was so ingrained in Vining, who served two combat deployments in Afghanistan, that when he started school at IU in August 2014 he said he had some adjusting to do.
“When I came here I’d see people with unzipped bags and I’d actually tell people ‘Hey your bag is unzipped’ and I’d realize, ‘Oh, I’m not back there anymore. People don’t care if they lose stuff,’” he said.
These marks of transition to civilian life can evoke a range of emotions, Vining said.
Vining, a Washington, D.C., native and senior in the School of Global and International Studies, said the anger some veterans feel upon returning home can come from losing their sense of purpose and duty to goals bigger than themselves.
“It just makes you furious, even at the smallest things — like someone being late to class or someone chewing bubble gum in class,” he said. “It eventually pans out and goes away. I think that’s the biggest thing for guys getting out is finding that other purpose.”
For Vining, his new outlets include writing about guns, shooting at ranges and learning the Pashto and Farsi languages. He said he hopes to use these to pursue his career goal of returning to the Middle East to work for the United States government.
The Veteran Support Services at IU provide a variety of programs for transitioning students that involve mentoring, advising and organized community service.
“Some veterans do have personal issues — either physical, mental or emotional health related — that are best addressed by professionals within the VA, campus or community,” Director of Veteran Support Services for IU-Bloomington Margaret Baechtold said in an email.
“But some simply want the feeling that they can connect with another student who understands their military background without a lot of explanation.”
Vining, who frequents their lounge for veterans, said he understands their important role for handling the adjustment.
“The ladies in there are absolutely amazing,” he said. “They help us out with a lot.”
Though Vining has finished his transition into student life, he said he still believes the student population may benefit from broadening their perception of veterans.
“Sometimes people have a very set view or perspective of what they think vets are whereas, in actuality, vets are as diverse and as varied because vets are just people to begin with,” he said.
At times, Vining doesn’t even share with peers that he served in Afghanistan because of the effort it would take to break himself apart from expectations or misconceptions they may have of veterans.
“I don’t want people thinking of me as, ‘That’s Miles the Marine,’” he said. “I want people to think of me as, ‘Oh, that’s Miles.’”
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