Meet Lanear Brown. He’s a senior exercise science major who teaches fitness classes at the College and commutes to campus from his home in Summerville, S.C. Like the majority of College of Charleston students, he’s curious, engaged and intent on using his time at CofC to set a firm path for himself beyond college. But that’s where the similarities end. Brown is a military veteran who spent 15 years in the U.S. Air Force on active duty. Consequently, his life experiences are vastly different from those of most conventional college students.
Brown’s status as a student-veteran counts him among the more than 200 undergraduates at the College who share that distinction. And on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, he and his fellow members of the College of Charleston Student Veterans Organization (SVO), in conjunction with the Center for Civic Engagement, will commemorate Veterans Day with a formal event on campus, including remarks by CofC President Andrew T. Hsu as well as U.S. Congressman Joe Cunningham, who attended the College. There will also be a silent auction and raffle to support SVO activities. All events will take place in room 101 of the Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center, beginning at 3:30 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to that event,” Brown says. “It’s a chance for connection. The ongoing goal of our organization is to build awareness. We want veterans to know that there’s a place for them on campus, but we also want others to know that veterans are here and we’re helping to make a difference.”
When he first enrolled at the College, Brown says, he wasn’t sure how to fit in.
“I hung out at the library by myself most days,” he recalls. “Being a veteran can sometimes make it difficult to relate to conventional students. That’s not always the case, but it is quite often. So, I was really pleased when I learned about the SVO. I got involved right away. They even made me the treasurer of our campus chapter my first semester.”
That was two years ago. Now, Brown is president of CofC’s SVO chapter. He says he and his fellow members work diligently to make veterans a bigger, better part of the campus community.
“There’s sometimes a stigma associated with being a veteran,” he explains. “There can be a lot of negatives, so we’re trying to change that. Vets are really just regular people who have a very different type of life experience. We can be loud and boisterous and we tend to swear a lot, but we usually keep that in check when we’re on campus.”
The one place on campus where many student-veterans feel at home is the Veteran’s Lounge in Lightsey Hall. According to Brown, the addition of this space, which opened last fall, has made a big difference for student-veterans at the College.
“It’s important that we now have our own place on campus,” says Brown. “We hang out in the lounge and have discussions, that sort of thing. We share notes; it’s a good way to build community. You might learn about professors who are particularly accommodating toward vets, or you’ll hear about a scholarship opportunity or something else. You can do your homework there or just chill. It’s basically vet central because the Office of Veteran and Military Student Services is located there as well. It’s a safe zone for us. Most vets are hyper-aware of their surroundings, and most of the time we don’t like crowds, so having the lounge is a real gift.”
The CofC SVO’s Veterans Day Commemoration event will take place from 3:30-6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. In addition to the speakers and silent auction, several student organizations and businesses will have informational tables set up. The event is free and open to the public.
Featured image: Lanear Brown, president of the College of Charleston Student Veterans Organization. (Photo by Heather Moran)