Cross-country excursions available for student military veterans

By Shannon Allen, @ShannonAllen_DE

Student veterans will be traveling together, both locally and across the country, in an effort to replicate working as a team as they did in the military.

The SIU Touch of Nature Environmental Center and Veterans Services are offering student veterans trips to hunt, backpack, canoe and whitewater raft in Florida, Colorado and southern Illinois during the 2015-16 school year.

Veteran Adventures is available for all student veterans, members of the National Guard, the Reserves and the Registered Officers’ Training Corps.


Shane Brady, a graduate assistant at SIU and a U.S. Army veteran, realized there was a lack of opportunities for veterans to socialize and thought of taking trips to bring them together.

“These trips will definitely help build a ton of camaraderie because we use challenge and adventure as a tool to make them work together and trust each other, just like they had to do in the military,” he said.

The trips, Brady said, involve activities the veterans have to work together to complete, which will help them bond. 

“Many veterans feel like they will never create bonds as strong as they had with people they served with, and those bonds were created because they literally trusted their lives to someone else,” Brady said. “These trips are meant to replicate being a team member in a high-risk situation where the results of failing are severe.”

Zack Constable, an SIUC student and U.S. Marines veteran, said that transitioning from the Marines to college was, and continues to be, a struggle.

“Being institutionalized and desensitized is rough when being free around people who are sensitive,” Constable said. “The hardest part for me was not being around the guys or anyone I trusted as much as them.”

Zane Ecklund, a graduate assistant at the university and a U.S. Navy veteran, works at the Veterans Services office and helps promote these trips. Ecklund said since some veterans come to college after they serve and are older than most students, they often feel out of place and alone.


“A lot of veterans who come into this office are older because they went into the military right after high school, so they don’t know many people in college anymore,” Ecklund said. “These trips are a great way for veterans to meet people and make friends with similar interests.”

Trips are funded by the participants, but Touch of Nature and Veterans Services is hosting fundraising events to make it so veterans can participate for free.

The fundraisers will be Nov. 10 at Quatro’s Pizza and Feb. 16 at S&B Burgers. If diners at either restaurant say they support Veteran Adventures, 20 percent of their bill will go toward a veteran scholarship or funding a trip, which can range from $150 to $700.

Shannon Allen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShannonAllen_DE