Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


The real soldier boys


There are more than 280 students classified as veterans at FAU. Some have seen their return to the university as a chance to bring others together, some consider their time serving the “best and worst” of their lives, and some have even served overseas while still maintaining their studies online.  The UP had the chance to talk to three of FAU’s veterans, and here are some of their stories.


Carlos Forero has served his country as a U.S. Marine for four years. He did two tours of duty in Iraq, but these days he is fighting a different kind of battle: getting student veterans the recognition and support they need at FAU.

“It truly felt like I was a newborn in society and I had to learn everything all over again,” explained Forero. “After being in a sandbox where bombs went off and people blew themselves up, I came to a university near the beach where fancy cars passed and many people were concerned with their financial status.”

Forero was in Fallujah, a city in Iraq, from 2004 to 2005, fighting in Operation Phantom Fury. During his second deployment, he spent five months living from house to house in 2006 to 2007, patrolling the Sunni Triangle with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, where he was attached to 2/4 Gulf Company. In 2008, Forero came back to FAU, where he had begun his education before his first deployment.

 After coming back to school, Forero felt it was time for FAU to have a place where veterans like him could gather to share experiences and receive educational benefits to help them with their transition. During fall 2009, he began FAU’s first-ever Military Veterans Club.

“Although we have a Veterans Affairs Office on campus, it is not a traditional office that has sponsorship available for students,” said Forero.  “But I have seen FAU grow, and heard its promise.”

After joining fraternity Delta Tau Delta, Forero met Gary Richardson, the fraternity president and an Army staff sergeant.  Together, the two explored the possibilities of a social organization for veterans.  On Nov. 9, 2009, FAU had its first official Veterans Dinner.

“I’m so thankful for the help and support I received through being involved with Greek Life,” said Ferero.

The dinner felt like a great beginning to him. They had a special guest speaker, Roy Foster (CNN hero and Vietnam War veteran), and fellow Marine and Purple Heart recipient Brandon Shepherd (an FAU student majoring in economics) attend.  Forero had more people than ever rallying around the cause and making the veterans’ voices heard in front of school officials.

“It was a huge step in starting this organization and pushing for the voice of veterans at FAU,” he declared.

Forero hopes to see his club grow with tradition at FAU, but in the meantime, he is content to have started it and to be at FAU, enjoying his education and his life.

“I have been blessed and thank God for the life he has let me live.  I keep all my brothers who passed away in my thoughts,” said Forero. “Some just don’t know how lucky we are to be getting an education and being able to live like we do.”

(See side bar for info on the club.)


James Truitt served in the Army for seven years, risking his life overseas, but he thinks FAU students in his journalism major are brave.

“If you can survive a year of journalism,” he chuckled, “then you’ll be okay.”

He is taking 15 credit hours this semester and working more than 40 hours per week at WPEC News on Channel 12.

His military career began in the National Guard on Feb. 28, 1999.

“Those in the National Guard are part-time warriors,” explained Truitt, a junior.  “I did that for about three years, but before Sept. 11, I made my decision to go Active Duty Army.  I became a broadcast journalist for the Army for the next four years. And that pretty much took me everywhere.  It came up to seven years and two months.”

Truitt said his time in the military was the best and worst time of his life.

“People are trying to kill you.  That’s never a fun idea to even comprehend,” he murmured.  “But life was different, so much simpler.  The friendships you make during that time are friendships that you’ll never be able to forget.”

Like many other veterans, Truitt found the transition back into civilian life difficult.

“It was tough to switch off that soldier mode. You come back after so many experiences, and in some ways it is hard to turn that switch off,” explained Truitt. “For me it was a time aspect. I had so much time on my hands, I didn’t know what to do with myself. So, when I could find work in those early days, I’d work as much as I could.  I took on two full-time jobs at one point.  Now, I’ve got a little bit more time to breathe. I just have fun; I like being busy.”

Truitt is enjoying his time at FAU and is looking positively toward his future.  He wants to graduate with his degree in communication and open up his own production studio.
He emphasized that, while he took a much different path than a lot of his peers, he wouldn’t change a thing because his experiences in the military made him the person he is today.

“Despite all the craziness, my experience has allowed me to grow. I matured with the military, [and] I lost a lot of my young-adulthood there. I didn’t have the same experience that a lot of other 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds had, but I wouldn’t give up those experiences for anything,” he said.

Truitt has advice for students who want to join the military. He said anyone who wants to join needs to know what they are signing up for and have the desire to serve.

“Forget the glory; you’re not going to get rich. You know, you might not even get recognized, but it’s that desire to serve, to know that if the time is called to give up your life for your country, your loved ones, your friends, you have to be prepared to make that sacrifice.”


Eliezar Olea spent his fall 2009 semester on the road working at Camp Al Asad in the Al Anbar province, the largest U.S. military air base in Iraq.

Friday through Wednesday morning each week, he took his schoolbook with him to keep up with his online classes. When he got back to camp, where there was Internet access, he would complete a week’s work of homework for three online classes in a day and a half.

“That was crazy,” said the junior political science major. “But it proved to me that I can do anything I want.  If I can take three classes while working all the time, I’m pretty sure I can pull off anything.”

Olea returned this February to FAU after serving with the Marine Corps since 2007.  He is still an active Marine, taking online classes and working Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“I wanted to join the Marine Corps since high school,” explained Olea.  “I got my dad to sign the papers when I was 17.  It was kind of a compromise: It allowed me to go to college.”

Olea wants to graduate with a degree in political science and move on to law school, where he hopes to become a military lawyer.

Despite his busy schedule, Olea “always finds time to waste, time to have fun,” he said with a smile.  “That’s important.”

Olea explained just how grateful he is to be here on campus getting an education at FAU.

“You can take classes online, but it’s just not the same,” he pointed out.  “There’s just something about being here on a campus, fighting for parking … that makes the experience so much more real.”

The V-word:
What is a veteran?

Military Veterans Club President Carlos Forero said there is no standardized legal definition for a “military veteran,” but this is what he feels are definitions for one:

  • n”Someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount ‘up to and including my life.'”
  • n”Someone who has served and fulfilled their contract with the United States Military Active Duty, Reserve or National Guard with their respective branch of the military and has received an honorable discharge.”
  • n”Someone who has a DD-214, which is the document that states you were in the military with all your awards and the time served.”
  • n”Those who have served, or are still serving, their country; those who are overseas right now and who have or will return to FAU; those who have seen combat.”

Military Veterans at FAU: A Time to Reach Out

The mission and purpose of the Military Veterans Club at FAU is to provide support and assistance to veterans in making a successful transition into the academic community. The club consists of veterans who are committed to working with FAU administration to promote a welcoming environment for veterans.  This includes providing resources for student veterans, such as counseling and medical services, financial aid resources, and educational and career support services, and creating a social organization to let veterans know that they’re not the only ones out there on campus.

E-mail [email protected] for additional information on the Military Veterans Club at FAU.
Facebook Group: Military Veterans at Florida Atlantic University

***Message from Club President Carlos Forero:
Hello, my name is Carlos Forero, president of the Military Veterans Club at FAU. It’s been two years since my End of Active Service, and I understand the transition and the challenges that we have all faced. I am asking every veteran on campus to help create networking for ourselves and talk about the veteran workshop on campus that happened this year, where the whole faculty and staff heard our voice for the improvements for veterans on campus.  We are pushing for a one-stop office, advance registration, housing, etc., for our brothers and sisters coming back and going from a military environment to a school environment. I think it’s time we all knew each other.

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