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The UTSA Student Veteran Association (SVA) would like to change the H-E-B University Center’s Tejas Lounge into a veterans’ recreation center. The center would provide veterans the opportunity to interact with one another as they transition from military life to a school environment.

“Our job is to be the representative voice of all veterans whether or not they are members,” said SVA President Tyler Wynne. “There are various committees around campus that support veterans and their education, and we’re the student voice to those committees.”

However, designating the spot for veterans’ use results in a general loss of space for non-veteran students to use. All students pay a University Center fee to have access to the Tejas Lounge, and if the SVA is granted exclusive use of the space, it would exclude many students.

Wynne clarifies that his position does not intend to prohibit students from the UC common area but instead designate a spot where veterans can focus on school and personal issues. “We’re not trying to kick (students) out and take over the space,” explained Wynne. “(Instead), we’re thinking of putting posters up in the Tejas Lounge so (students) know why we are doing this.”

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA), 1,667,740 veterans currently live in Texas — with approximately 155,000 in Bexar County. Of Texas’ total veteran population, 86,506 individuals are less than 29 years of age.

The USDVA has projected that the veteran population will decrease from roughly 23 million to about 16 million by the 2040 fiscal year, but this decline does not mean veteran issues will fall as well.

Currently, the UTSA Student Government Association is drafting a resolution that will explain the details of the SVA’s use of the Tejas Lounge.

The proposed veterans’ space contains academic, military, and medical resources. SVA Vice President Thomas Mahoney explained: “As veterans, we come out of the military, come to school and have no idea what to expect and (the SVA) is trying to get the information out to the veterans that don’t know about the available resources.”

Giving veterans better access to necessary resources will facilitate transition into civilian life.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that 300,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Moreover, the stigma associated with a mental health disorder causes some veterans to avoid seeking help.

Fortunately, Wynne strives to ensure that the United States Department of Education’s (USDE) “eight keys to Success” are implemented on campus.

The “8 keys” are guidelines to help veterans reduce campus alienation and PTSD while building a community. Some of the eight keys include fostering a trusting community on campus for veterans, ensuring veteran academic success and centralizing campus resources for veterans with a designated space.

Wynne explained that UTSA could ensure veterans’ success, according to the “8 keys,” through the conversion of the Tejas Lounge into a veterans’ center. Collectively, the SVA sees the Tejas Lounge as a stepping stone toward the building of a dedicated center that houses all veteran resources.

Veterans experiences are tremendously different, remarked Wynne. “A lot of students have traveled, but veterans have traveled — and traveled to get shot at — and that changes how you view the world.”

Wynne emphasized that in addition to providing an opportunity for veteran success, designating the UC Tejas Lounge as a veteran center is also an opportunity to share and connect with non-veteran students. “I think it would sway everyone to (understand) we’re not trying to steal a space.”

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