Jonathan Lang and Robert Gil: Building Camaraderie and Support at the Student Veterans Club
Veterans returning to civilian life, particularly those going back to school, face unique challenges. And after years of relying on fellow service members when difficulties arise, they can no longer draw on that camaraderie and support.
Enter Jonathan Lang and Robert Gil: Army veterans, Hunter students, and president and vice president respectively of the Student Veterans Club. One of the many resources available to veterans attending Hunter, the club offers the mutually beneficial peer relationships that many of these men and women sorely miss.
Club members spend much of their time together in the informal setting of the Veterans Lounge on the seventh floor of the College's East Building. "If I have a tough professor, I can go to the lounge and vent," Lang said. "Or just have a conversation."
Gil looks at it this way: "The military has a different way of living, and that makes the transition difficult. We have to take care of each other and move forward as a group."
Lang is from eastern Pennsylvania and served in the army from 2004 to 2007. A cavalry scout and reconnaissance specialist, he was deployed in late 2005 to Iraq, where he quickly found that his job was to be whatever the day required. "You pass someone injured in the street, you're an ambulance driver; the next day you're kicking down doors, and then you're sitting in a sheik's house doing community relations," he said.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Gil received the Bronze Star for Valor for his actions in Iraq on December 1, 2006, when he prevented an oncoming vehicle-born explosive device from reaching its intended target of 18 unsuspecting soldiers, including one lieutenant colonel. Gil was wounded in the process.
Since being discharged in 2007, Gil has been involved with several veterans support groups, including the Wounded Warrior Project. He has also discovered a passion for fly-fishing and has promoted it as a way to help veterans suffering from brain injuries. "The multitude of steps involved helps them focus. It brings back the basic instincts that you utilize so much in the military," Gil explained. "It's an effective way for guys to relax and to open up. Some hold it in for so long and then just explode. This gives them a safe environment to let it out."
Lang, who will graduate in January, is an avid traveler who spent months brushing up on his Spanish language skills in South America-and his boxing skills in Puerto Rico-before arriving at Hunter in August 2010. He has interned with NBC Universal and has his eye on several organizations he would like to get involved with, including The Mission Continues and Wall Street War Fighters. He happily admits that his next step is "to be determined," though a return to South America following graduation is likely.
Although they are no longer in the military, Lang and Gil continue to serve a cause larger than themselves. With their dedication to the Student Veterans Club, they have made the experience of their fellow veterans at Hunter a little easier.