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Veterans Club president proud to be a Marine

Ken Kohl is the president of the Madison College Veteran Club.

Ken Kohl is the president of the Madison College Veteran Club.

Celia Blau / Clarion

Celia Blau / Clarion

Ken Kohl is the president of the Madison College Veteran Club.

Jessica Deegan, News Editor

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Following the humbling experience of actively serving in the Marine Corps, and now serving as a U.S. armed forces veteran, Ken Kohl, president of the Madison College Veteran Club, holds Veterans Day close to his heart.

Both of Kohl’s parents were in the Marines and he felt that he, too, could carry on his family’s legacy and make his nation proud.

Since grade school, Kohl was determined to become a military member, just like his parents and great uncle who served in Vietnam. Oddly enough, Kohl got picked on because of his dream and was told by his classmates that he could never do it.

“Everyone just tore me down and spat on me for it, saying I was too weak and dumb to make it in the Marine Corps. So, making my title in the Marine Corps gives me a bunch of pride, and a bunch of self-respect that I accomplished something that people told me I would never be able to do.”

“By going through these experiences, I already know that life isn’t going to give you a bunch of dandelions and some roses. It’s going to give you a lot of hell…and a lot of trials. I’m not someone who gives up on anything too easy, so I have already grasped the concept that if you don’t give up too easily on what you want to accomplish, then you will accomplish it. That’s the growth that I’ve seen within me.”

“Once we raise our right hand and swore the oath to be in the military, we give up our bill of rights. We are not able to exercise those freedoms as civilians are able to.”

Military members work long and hard hours to receive the minimal services that they do, including general quarters, a place to sleep and some rationed food at a military cafeteria. These services are automatically deducted from their paychecks and it’s up to the member to decide how to utilize them.

Kohl explains that transitioning to civilian life can be difficult for former military members as they move from a structured lifestyle with a steady paycheck to an uncertain employment status.

The military isn’t just war-related, as there are many other positions you can hold. When you return to civilian life as a veteran, if you want to continue in the same expertise that you were performing in the military, it may not be hard to find a job. For those who want to explore different fields, it may be a challenge.

“We are already getting a late start into civilian life and deciding what we want to do for our lives,” he said. “Even current active military members…they don’t understand veterans. That’s one thing that is unique about a U.S. armed forces veteran. They have lived both civilian and military and now their back in the civilian world. Military members haven’t walked that path yet.”

“In the mental aspect, military life is its own culture,” explains Kohl. Naturally, civilians do not know how to understand active military members or veterans.
Kohl references a statistical rate involving suicide among military veterans and that they are not getting the help they need and not able to relate to anyone else.

“We know what we went through and civilians can’t relate to us. For me, personally, even walking through these halls and being in some on the classrooms, I can’t relate to a lot of the other students. Already, that separates me from the rest of the classroom and that gives us a sense of isolation.”

Kohl initially wanted to become a member of the Veteran Club because he knows the struggles he’s undergone and that they are similar to those of what other veterans went through, if not worse.

Kohl wants the veterans to know that the club is somewhere they can go to get the support they need. The Veteran Club is a relaxed “come and go as you please” type of club, explains Kohl.

Whether you are an active military member or a family member of one, everyone needs support. Although Kohl encourages all Madison College veterans to join the club, he does understand that some veteran students already have their minds made up in that they do not want to participate in anything affiliated with the military anymore.

“I just want to help my fellow veterans through the ease of their transition from military life to civilian life. For some military members, it takes weeks, months, if not years to ease into the transition.”

“We have our own unity, our own understanding with each other. No one in the world will understand a veteran better than another veteran.”

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Veterans Club president proud to be a Marine