VETS discusses challenge of returning to civilian life

Lila Holley posed with Baylor student veterans Photo credit: Genesis Larin

The Veteran Education and Transition Support (VETS) Program hosted Lila Holley on Wednesday, when she spoke about to the group about the shared challenges involved in soldiers’ return to civilian life.

Lila Holley is an award-winning author and former U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Four.

Holley presented a lecture addressing the emotional process of transitioning from soldier to civilian, as well transforming labels placed on them through sharing their stories.

“My identity was tied up in my uniform,” Holley said.

She said for many, there is a loss of identity after the military, and veterans have to figure out who they are.

“Many of us struggle in transition,” Holley said. “No one likes to be vulnerable. The military trains us not to be that way.”

Kevin Davis, United States Marine Corps veteran and VETS program manager, said it is important to have speakers like Lila Holley meet with veterans because it shines a light and shows that vets are not alone.

“It gives different perspectives, especially with diverse backgrounds. Many are mothers, wives, some are in their early 20s,” Davis said. “It is important to get them connected.”

The stigmas placed on military service members make it difficult to ask for help. Holley discussed the greater difficulties for women in the military to be vulnerable and willing to ask for help because of the double standard placed on them. The VETS program at Baylor provides different services that help veterans with their transition and provide them with academic support.

Holley also said people’s perceptions of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have become a negative label for veterans.

“Their perceptions of veterans is based off of what the media says of us,” Holley said. “It doesn’t look the same for all of us. “PTSD doesn’t mean we are on the verge of a violent outburst. It’s not something to be scared of. We should be embracing people with these struggles.”

Holley said providing events and hosting speakers like herself creates a safe space for veterans to share their experiences and struggles.

“This allows them to connect with their peer group. When you transition out, you begin to isolate yourself. It’s easier to stay away,” Holley said. “When they are able to get together, they are able to connect.”

Davis encourages both veterans and non-veterans to challenge themselves.

“It’s always healthy to step out of our comfort zone. We should all be striving to be out of our comfort zones,” Davis said. “Be part of events; be exposed to different perspectives.”