Veterans and brothers Sean and Kyle McLafferty have found a home at MU.
Packed into a lecture room in McReynolds Hall on a cold, rainy day, Sean McLafferty overhears an 18-year-old freshman complain about the page-length requirement on their upcoming International Relations paper.
“I wonder how she would do sleeping outside,” he muses, glancing out the window, “because it’s not that bad out.”
Thinking back to Iraq as a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, it’s hard for McLafferty, a political science and economics major, to imagine a bad day at school coming anywhere close to a bad day in the army. It’s a perspective that helps fuel the perseverance needed to complete a four-year degree, but it’s also one that separates him and other military veterans from their classmates.
“A lot of people, including myself, when they come to campus, find it hard to relate to other people who are traditional college students,” says Kyle McLafferty, Sean’s brother. Kyle is a corporal in the U.S. Army Reserves.
The brothers, from Ferguson, Mo., have found a home on campus in the Missouri Student Veterans Association (MSVA). The group gave them a social network and a place to belong. It even gave them a roommate — a fellow infantryman they rescued from living with his sister and her roommates.
The Veterans Center in Memorial Union has also been a help when it comes to registering for classes, filling out financial aid and G.I. Bill materials, and pointing them to other services.
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Sean found that the instincts he’d learned on the battlefield were difficult to turn off back home. Sitting in a large, noisy lecture hall filled with students and unsearched backpacks caused him so much anxiety he could barely stay in his seat. Referred to the Truman Veterans Hospital, the therapists there taught him techniques to quiet his anxiety.
The brothers are now nearing graduation — Sean likely in fall 2013 and Kyle likely in spring 2014 — and considering career and graduate school options. They’re excited that the new Mizzou Military Veterans Alumni Association will let them continue to stay connected to Tiger veterans.