McGill Tribune: Student / Soldiers

Excerpt from McGill Tribune "Student / Soldier", by Elie Waitzer November 2015

"Master Corporal Eric Washburn stopped attending Vanier College in 2008 to join the Royal Canadian Regiment as an infantryman, and was deployed overseas in Afghanistan two years later as a machine gunner. After four years of service, having to revert to being a student to finish up his CEGEP degree was an unsettling experience.

“As a 24-year-old veteran of the combat in Afghanistan sitting in a classroom full of 17-year-olds—it was quite intense to say the least,” Washburn said. “I was not ready for that.”

Washburn, who joined the Canadian Grenadier Guards—located in Montreal—as a reservist after returning from Afghanistan, is now in his second year at Concordia, where he founded the Concordia Veterans Association (CVA) along with two other students with military experience. In addition to offering support to the estimated 200 to 400 current or ex-military members at Concordia, the CVA’s goal is to make the transition from military life to student life easier. Many universities in the United States grant up to a full year of transfer credits to soldiers who have completed courses offered in the military. In Canada, most universities will not recognize these as credits, making the application process daunting for soldiers trying to move on to the next stage in their lives. ... Templer and Washburn both agreed that the most rewarding aspect of being in the military was the incomparable sense of community. During his first year in Afghanistan, Washburn remembers working with six fellow soldiers to apply emergency tourniquets to a local man who had become a triple amputee after accidentally triggering an improvised explosive device (IED).

“You suffer through a lot of hardships,” Washburn said. “You’re spending hours, days, months with somebody who’s going through the same thing as you are [...] so you develop a bond—it’s unbreakable—and that really is the most striking thing about the military.”

The inevitable flipside of that unique closeness, however, is that it can create a false image of insularity and homogeneity that informs many people’s stereotypes of the military. "