Snapshots of the Student-Veteran Experience During COVID-19

An exhibit by Art Reyes and Josh Farrar, Graduate Student-Veterans at St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas

Introduction

This exhibit is an attempt to, in some small way, capture the student-veteran experience during COVID-19. Student-veterans faced unprecedented pressures and struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic. This exhibit ties numerous stories together that elucidate these issues.

Student-veterans have faced all sorts of challenges this year. From grappling with college registration and financial aid processes to Guardsmen and Reservists activating to serve in response to the pandemic, COVID-19 affected student-veterans in unique ways. 

This concise, twenty-item exhibit shines a light on the plight of student-veterans during the COVID-19 Pandemic and, along with the numerous other exhibits and items in this archive, provides nuance and perspective on this international event.  

Registration and Financial Aid

Registering for Graduate School While Serving in the Military on COVID-19 Orders

An email detailing registration issues for student-veteran Josh Farrar

Registering for School During COVID-19 for a Veteran

Student-veteran Art Reyes also faced problems when trying to register for graduate school

How has COVID-19 challenged your VA 2020 school registration?

Some registration issues involved the Veterans Affairs office

COVID-19 Military Service Leads to Scholarship

National Guardsman Josh Farrar received a scholarship to St. Mary's University for service on the COVID-19 Relief and Testing Mission

How Will I Pay for My Master’s as a Retired Reservist with No Income?

Student-veteran Art Reyes faced funding issues that affected his ability to attend graduate school during COVID-19

First Sign of VA Benefit Contact During COVID-19

Student-veteran Arthur Reyes struggled to make contact  with Veterans Affairs in order to receive education benefits during COVID-19

A Retiree Initiating Vocational Rehab Benefits

Student-veteran Arthur Reyes initiated vocational rehab benefits during COVID-19

Positive Chapter 31 Decision Letter During COVID-19

Student-veteran Art Reyes received Chapter 31 financial aid from the government, allowing him to continue with his graduate studies

Student-veterans who registered for classes during the COVID-19 pandemic faced high levels of uncertainty. Some registered while currently serving on orders. Others were trying to understand significant COVID-19 changes to the Veterans Affairs registration process. Money was also an issue. The pandemic had severe economic consequences and future uncertainty led student-veterans to question how they would pay for college. Veterans also pursued new funding opportunities such as vocational rehab benefits. The items showcased here highlight portions of student-veterans' registration and financial aid struggles.

Military Duties

Student, Instructor, Soldier: Leaving to Help With the COVID-19 Pandemic

Student-veteran Josh Farrar was activated with the National Guard for the COVID-19 Relief and Testing Mission

Oral History of National Guardsman Peter Bain

Student-veteran and National Guardsman Peter Bain details his time serving on the COVID-19 Relief and Testing Mission

Expert Opinion

Student-veteran Josh Farrar captured a news interview during the COVID-19 Relief and Testing Mission

Coming Off Orders

Student-veteran Josh Farrar completed paperwork and received his final orders, ending his time on the COVID-19 Relief and Testing Mission

Student-veterans who were still active Guardsmen and Reservists soon faced the reality of being activated to face the fallout of the COVID-19 Pandemic. These student-veterans were activated for a variety of mission-sets such as civil unrest shows of force, COVID-19 nasal and oral testing site creation, and food and water distribution. These student-veterans had to balance their careers, families, and personal education with the demands and needs of their state and country. Many student-veterans were gone for months at a time. The items presented here touch on this overarching story of student-veteran military duties during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Family and Friends

Recent College Graduate Trying to Maintain Employment as a Substitute Teacher during the COVID-19 Pandemic

A student-veteran family member speaks about starting a new teaching career during COVID-19

Oral History of a Teacher, Wife, and Mother - Helen Farrar

Helen Farrar, highschool teacher, mother, and wife of National Guardsman Josh Farrar detailed her experience teaching and living without her husband during COVID-19

Grandfather, Son, and Granddaughter Reunited at Last

Student-veteran and National Guardsman Josh Farrar was eventually united with family at a playground

COVID-19 Has No Boundaries for Those That Mourn

Student-veteran Art Reyes mourned a terrible event during the pandemic - the loss of his father

Student-veterans have a support system that helps them through tough times. Being a student is already difficult and time consuming for veterans, but many student-veterans were also called to active service as was detailed in the last section. What happens to the friends and family of a military service member when they are activated? How were the support systems of student-veterans impacted during the pandemic? The items in this section introduce the struggles that family and friends of student-veterans went through throughout the pandemic. Whether it was facing childcare struggles, job issues, or sickness and death itself, friends and families of student-veterans were impacted throughout this time, thereby impacting the student-veterans themselves.

Graduation and Post-Graduation

Graduating in the Age of COVID-19

Student-veteran and current National Guardsman Josh Farrar graduated virtually from his PhD program at Texas A&M University while serving on the COVID-19 Relief and Testing Mission

Excitement of Graduation Dimmed By COVID

Student-veterans Dave Ruff and Josh Farrar detailed some of their successes and struggles concerning graduation and post-graduation goals

Interview with Active Air Force Reservist during COVID-19

An Air Force Reservist shared about adjusting to his work environment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Father and Son Graduation Celebration

Two veterans celebrated a graduation at the start of COVID-19, but did not know what would soon befall them

Graduation is one of the most exciting times in one's education experience. For student-veterans and others, educational program graduations were highly affected and even canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Canceled graduations took away the sense of completion and celebration that these moments deserved, but the response was understandable given the global nature of the pandemic. Even though the response and corresponding effects on graduations was considered justified in the eyes of many, it still was unfortunate. Some student-veterans completed their graduation ceremonies online, even while on activation. Others struggled with job prospects, the job market, and job changes in response to, and because of COVID-19. The items in this section add perspective to this narrative.

Conclusion

Student-veterans faced, and continue to face, unique problems during the COVID-19 pandemic that affect their registration, financial aid, military service, friends and family support network, graduation, and job prospects. For the most part, many have overcome these obstacles through creativity and help from friends, family, and faculty. The items detailed in this exhibit highlight this distinct time in history from the student-veteran perspective.

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