Veterans Voices: Kent State senior, Marine veteran hopes to help others transition to life after military

Veterans Voices

On JET 24 Action News, we’re bringing back a series of stories that pay tribute to the men and women who have served and are serving in our armed services.

In this edition, Roosevelt Leftwich introduces us to one former marine on the verge of graduating Kent State University.

It’s one heck of a transition to go from a section leader in a Marine Corps armored unit to just another dude walking to class at Kent State.

“When I came back from my 4th and final deployment, I battled PTSD pretty severely. And I overcame that,” said Mark Stillian.

Stillian has seen some things and experienced some things during his deployments first to Iraq and then to Afghanistan. Those things made it tough to adjust to civilian life, but he got help. Now, in his senior year at Kent with a masters program in counseling ahead of him, Mark says he is determined to help others.

“I’m a big advocate for veterans’ mental health, to bring the suicide rate down and help with post-traumatic stress. That’s what I have a passion for and that’s what I want to do.” Stillian said.

Stillian has found his calling, but for many veterans, the next thing to come after their time in the military is not always easy to find.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says unemployment among post-9/11 veterans is slightly higher, but mostly it’s attributed to the fact that many are under 30 and are making big adjustments in life.

Also, many veterans either underuse or don’t use the benefits that they’re entitled to under the GI Bill, which includes full payment of skills training or college tuition.

Kent State, like most colleges in Ohio, has a special office to help veterans get started and help them take advantage of the benefits they’ve earned.

Ryder says veterans are older students who have needs that are very different from someone just out of high school and they do everything to support those needs.

“Come into the office and talk to you about what your benefits are going to be. We connect you with services on campus.” Rider said. “If you have other issues, we can connect you to other services to make sure that your transition is smooth.”

With the US involvement in Afghanistan over, more and more military members are expected to leave the service and look for that next chapter in their lives.

Starting college in his late 20’s, Stillion says it was a different type of shock and awe.

At 34, he says these steps he’s making now and what he brings to the table live up to one of the biggest lessons he learned from his time in the service — Marines always move forward.

“I also offer a lot of insight to the classes that other students may not have the experience I have and have gone through,” he said.

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