Rock Valley program helps veterans transition back to civilian life

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — When their time of service is done, some veterans have a tough time transitioning back to civilian life.

Paul Eikre used to pilot the USS America as a Botswain’s Mate. Now, he’s steering his education – and transitioning out of the military – thanks to help from Rock Valley College.

“You’re doing these things because it’s structured for you to do it that way,” he said. “And losing all of that, and having to do that thing by yourself, it’s a little difficult. And, to have that person holding your elbow to keep you upright, I mean, that really makes a big difference.”

Rock Valley is proud of its military connection. The college has a portable veterans wall that shows current and former students, as well as faculty and staff members, who have served in the Armed Forces.

“The veterans may not all get together and talk here, but you all know who each other are,” said Edward Davis, a 4th generation Army Paratrooper. “There’s still that military discipline. You see it by the look. You see it by the walk. You see it by the garb they wear.”

Davis is also a 3rd generation Ranger. After serving two tours, he wants to earn a degree that eventually leads to a career, counselling veterans.

“I understand what it’s like. I do suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and I work very hard, and it’s something I deal with every day. And I see veterans out there that need help, or may not know how to get help,” he said. “And maybe, being able to be someone that’s made the transition and was able to step over and get a sense of normality back in their life, maybe I can help someone else and bring them along.”

Stacey Kolder, RVC’s Financial Aid Director and veteran herself, says the college understands how important that connection can be.

“[We’ll] sit down with each of our veterans and map out a college plan, what courses they want to take, what program of study they are pursuing, and helping them with the legwork, as far as filling out the documentation, and then staying as a resource over the next two, three years that they’re here,” she said.

Rock Valley College has more than 300 veteran students. About half are using the military benefits they earned during their service.

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