Reaching out to military and veteran students

“Standing Down: From Warrior to Civilian” by Great Books Foundation

WCC is bringing together the military as well as veterans to participate in “Talking Service,” a new pilot program with the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities (HCH).

“I think this country wants to show that we appreciate and that we are grateful for the service that you offer,” said WCC Chancellor Doug Dykstra to a group of military students at a welcome reception on Sept. 24. “I think there’s a feeling that I have here at WCC that we haven’t done enough. We’re going to do better.”

“Talking Service” is a reading and discussion program that uses the book “Standing Down: From Warrior to Civilian” by Great Books Foundation. The book features personal accounts, memoirs and poetry written by or about members of the service. Robert Chang, who is the Motheread/Fatheread statewide coordinator for HCH, facilitates the discussions.

“It’s not something that should be overwhelming,” said Chang. “It’s not something that should be intimidating in any way. What we’ll do is get together, sit down and talk about it. I always try and keep a real safe, real calm, real comfortable environment.”

“I guarantee that you will read things that will connect with you and if they don’t, the other people in the class will connect it to you,” said Dykstra to the students.

HCH Executive Director Robert Buss said that the National Endowment has done other programs where veterans act in Greek plays because “the Trojan war was about veterans, the Odyssey was about veterans. A lot of the things that are there deal with these stories of war and our experience.” The National Endowment for the Humanities, one of the sponsors of “Talking Service,” and the National Endowment for the Arts were established by Congress approximately 50 years ago so that “the length of the mind could flourish just not in academic settings,” said Buss.

First year psychology student Kaipo Kiaana served in the Coast Guard and brought his best friend and first year student Blake Simeona, who is in the Army Reserves, to the program’s welcome reception. Kiaana said that he is interested in the program because they’re “used to living in their head” and as a result they feel out of place socially.

Jonathan Ebanks, a first year student in mental health and former Marine who fought in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, is interested in the program because of its student/veteran-oriented theme. “It’s not common for campuses to have,” said Ebanks. “I want to participate because of pure curiosity.”

Students can also participate in online discussions outside of the program sessions, which Chang said can be another safe space for participants to connect.

“We see this as kind of the beginning of something that we hope gets off the ground,” said Dykstra. “We’d like to have a veteran’s organization here at this campus.”

The program consists of six sessions that are held bi-monthly on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 7 & 21, Nov. 4 & 18 and Dec. 2 & 16.

For more information, contact Stacy Hoshino, HCH director of grants and special projects, at 469-4551 or


by Debbra Baetz, Ka ‘Ohana Editor in Chief