NORWALK, Conn. -- A trio of veterans discussed the difficulties of adjusting to civilian and student life during a Veterans Day ceremony at Norwalk Community College on Monday.
Nick Quinzi, Tatiana Quinzi and Alex Prokharchyk are all students at NCC who served in the military. Nick and Tatiana are married with a daughter, and both served in the Marine Corps before leaving the service this year.
Prokharchyk joined the Army as a medic after emigrating to the United States from Belarus, and is now in the Army Reserve while studying finance at NCC.
In a discussion moderated by Professor Lori Soderlind, the three discussed some of the difficulties of transitioning back to life in the United States after serving in the military. All three said that one of the biggest challenges was the lack of structure and camaraderie found in military life.
“It still takes up to six months, sometimes even more, to adjust. Because you talk to people who cannot relate to what happening with you when you get out of active service,” said Prokharcyk. “It’s a process, it takes time.”
Nick said that in addition to adjusting to civilian life, he also had to adjust to life as a father. He said that it was weird at first not having a chain of command, and that he originally did not plan on attending college.
"Coming to this atmosphere and being around all the other veterans has helped me a lot more, it gives me people to talk to, helped get me back into society," he said. He said that he wants to transfer to Sacred Heart University eventually and study physical therapy, and then work with the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense.
Tatiana, who is studying nursing, said that most of her classmates would not think she is a veteran, and that it can be difficult to find friends among fellow students.
"When you’re in the military, everyone around you is in the military and you already have that connection. Her you kind of have to find a connection," she said.
She agreed that the school's veterans services and the Veterans' Club have helped connect with other veterans.
"It gives you somebody to talk to. You talk to other veterans in class and you compare your experiences, where you've been what you've done. So it gives you that connection automatically," she said.
The Veterans Day ceremony was led by Charles Gabor, a computer science professor, 30-year veteran of the Navy and Navy Reserve, and head of the Veterans' Club.
The ceremony also included posting of colors by the Brien McMahon High School Color Guard, and the national anthem sung by the NCC Choir. There were also remarks honoring veterans by NCC President David Levinson, Sen. Bob Duff and Sen. Carlo Leone, himself a veteran of the Air Force. There was also an introduction of the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) program, which helps veterans acclimate to student and civilian life.
“It was a totally different world when I came back to the United States because the United States moves so quickly, especially in terms of technology,” said Leone, who served three years overseas. “It’s not always so easy coming back home, but we’re here to try to make that transition better.”
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