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University of Michigan student veterans group helps members prepare for employment

Jul 7, 2015

Powell says he was fearful of losing his sense of community when returning to civilian life.
Credit U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

When veterans come home they are thanked for their service, but what is provided for them to make the transition from the military to civilian life?

From 1995 to 2006 Sherman Powell served in the Army, first as an infantry officer, then as a tank officer.  He was among the first veterans to return home from the Iraq War.

When he arrived home, he says he was "concerned about the loss of a community. The loss of a sense of teamwork and shared purpose and doing important and difficult things with like-minded people."

At 34 he had accomplished many of his life goals, "I had gotten to do great things, in difficult environments in numerous places around the world."

He explains coming home as almost a silence. The level of intensity, constant exertion and awareness of his environment was no longer necessary.

From 2006 to 2008 he was a part of the Armed Forces Association at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. He says this helped him find a sense of community again.

The Armed Forces Association provided a way for him to share his experiences in a common language.

And student veterans groups allow those who have served to "process those experiences and think about how they're going to adapt and pursue the rest of their lives."

Powell's return to civilian life in 2006 made him part of the first generation of veterans to return from Iraq, and he says there are many more resources to help returning veterans now than there were then.

But within his first few weeks on campus he was able to start going to meetings with the Armed Forces Association, and he says that was immensely important in helping them to succeed.

Members helped each other by reviewing resumes and conducting mock interviews.

Powell says providing more job prep and interview training before military personnel leave or during their transition is one of the best things that can be done for veterans entering back into civilian life.