Comrades off the battlefield
“Having a support network is important for anyone, especially veterans who might need help making the transition to college.”
Mark Speckhard ’16
Major: Public Health
Transitioning from Combat Lines to College Life
Veterans must make many adjustments when they separate from the military and transition back to civilian life. Missing the bonds with fellow soldiers is part of it. Mark Speckhard, a Marine veteran from Valparaiso, Indiana, found an unexpected form of camaraderie after his military service. He separated from the Marine Corps in the summer of 2012 and enrolled at the University of Evansville. He was a 22-year-old freshman. “It was intimidating,” he said. “I had been out of the classroom for four years, hadn’t read a book or written a paper in so long. But, the professors were understanding and helpful and classes were small, which made the transition easier.” Mark described the most difficult part of his transition to college as making choices that would affect his future and career. The easiest part was adapting to college culture and making friends.
Finding a New Brotherhood
Typical of most nontraditional-aged students on a college campus like UE, Mark was focused on his studies. His routine included going to classes and back to his apartment to study. But, as time went on and he got comfortable with school, he found himself wanting more. “All I did was go to class and study,” he explained. “I got bored, so I decided I needed to meet people.” That’s when Mark met members from one of UE’s fraternities, which he eventually joined. “I like the brotherhood,” said Mark. “I don’t think anything can compare to bonds you make through deployments and the military, but it’s similar. It’s a group of guys being there to support one another and achieve a common goal.”
Mark is not the only fraternity brother with military ties. There are two others currently in the fraternity and many more who came before them. Senior, Army National Guardsman, and ROTC cadet, Travis Cochren joined Mark’s fraternity, which he says he says has offered friendships and brotherhood that will last a lifetime. “Being a member of the military allows me to offer a different perspective to the fraternity.”
Since joining the fraternity, Mark has been elected chapter president for two terms and has received special recognitions from national headquarters. “All the members respect Mark,” said freshman Jacob Brenton. “When Mark talks, everyone else becomes quiet and listens to what he has to say.” When asked what he thinks about Mark being a veteran, Jacob said, “I don’t really think of Mark as being a veteran, I think of him as being a brother first and also being our chapter’s president. However, I think that it is great that we have a military veteran as our president because it has probably helped him develop strong leadership skills. That, plus a good personality makes people want to follow him and like him at the same time.”
Fraternity life was a good choice for Mark and other veterans at UE. “The brotherhood and camaraderie is very similar to that of the military,” said Mark. “Having a support network is important for anyone, especially veterans who might need help making the transition to college.” Mark encourages veterans to consider joining a fraternity and suggests that fraternities actively recruit veterans. “Fraternities and veterans benefit from being associated with one another.”
As for life after college graduation, Mark said, “My girlfriend and parents joke that when I graduate, I need to find the next brotherhood.” Maybe that’s why he is planning a career in fire-fighting or as a police officer. The camaraderie will continue for Mark, and for those who cross paths with this outstanding veteran, they will benefit as well.