The other side of the war: The transition from active duty to veteran is harder than it looks

Jozsef Papp

Many veterans around the country are looking for ways to further their educational careers by attending college after their active duty has ended. However, the transition from active duty to student life is much harder for some.

“Transitioning out of the Marine Corps was extremely stressful. A way of life that I had known for so long was suddenly ending and here I was, back to where it all began and suddenly searching for my next calling in life,” said John Kitchens, business major.

Kitchens, a father of two children, served in the Marine Corps infantry for almost ten years. During this time, Kitchens was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times. 

“I am the only Marine in my family, however, there are several military veterans in my family that I looked up while growing up,” said Kitchens. “I also have a twin brother who is currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Air Force.”

Coming from a military family, he knew from a young age that he wanted to enter the military.

“I knew at a young age that military service was a true calling in my life. When I was a kid, our classroom would send letters to the troops serving in Operation: Desert Storm. It was hard not to idolize them,” said Kitchens. “Years later, when I was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, I often considered the younger generation and how they likely looked at us overseas with the same awe.”

Kitchens feels that it’s important for people to celebrate Veterans Day and realize how important this day is for all the men in uniform. 

“I am glad we have a holiday for veterans. Aside from this specific day, I see nothing wrong with treating our veterans like every day is Veterans Day. I want you to look past the stigma much of our society has placed on us veterans,” said Kitchens. “A simple “thank you” goes a long way, and even if they are like me and seem a tad uncomfortable by this gesture, thank them anyway! Your support means more than you know.”

His decision to return home to Statesboro and attend to Georgia Southern was influenced by his time in the military. 

“I was born in Statesboro, Georgia, and ever since I was young, Georgia Southern has always been a place that I associated with home,” said Kitchens. “After leaving home and seeing so much of the good and bad our world had to offer, thinking about this community was always nostalgic.”

Kitchens credits his ability to attend Georgia Southern to the Veterans Affairs Educational Benefit Programs and is extremely grateful for the benefits he receives. Kitchens currently receives the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33), that includes tuition and fee payments, monthly housing allowance, and books and supplies stipend.

“Receiving educational benefits certainly alleviates the burden of having to come up with enough money to fund my degree. While I am well aware of the many students with a student-loan debt that might seem nearly impossible to repay, I am extremely thankful that I do not have to go that route,” said Kitchens. “The Veterans Affairs Educational Benefits has helped me tremendously. As a husband and father of two little ones, going to school full-time is no easy task.”

In addition to being a graduate student, currently working towards a BBA in Management with an emphasis in Human Resources Management, Kitchens is the president of the Georgia Southern University’s Student Veterans Association, an organization to provide military veterans with resources, support, and advocacy to succeed in higher education and after graduation.

“Today’s veterans face numerous obstacles in their path of attaining a college degree. These challenges range from a missing sense of camaraderie to feeling like an outsider amongst 18 year old traditional students to a lack of understanding by university faculty,” said Kitchens. “When coupled with the visible and invisible wounds of war, a college degree can be an elusive goal for men and women returning from military service. Student Veterans Association assists in making that goal a reality.”