Letter: Military-Connected Students at Stanford

I am Sebastain John Gould, a U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal and a Philosophy major in the Class of 2012. I came to Stanford in 2007 as a low-income, first-generation college student. Developing friendships was hard in a place where income is not talked about but provides drastically different standards of living. My difficult social experience, however, was offset by the intellectual enjoyment of participating in Structured Liberal Education, a Great Books program. It was there that I read Plato’s Republic and learned from Plato what it took to be a great philosopher—serving in war. This concept was reinforced throughout the year, when I realized the books of philosophy I enjoyed reading the most were all written by veteran-philosophers.

Midway through my first year at Stanford, I decided to join the United States Marine Corps as a machine gunner. I went into a Reserve unit in San Bruno, CA. Less than a year later, I was in Iraq. I came back last winter quarter to resume my education, but the adjustment was difficult due to the lack of support for veterans.

William Treseder, now in Afghanistan, started the Military Service as Public Service Initiative (MSAPS) at the Haas Center in the same quarter I returned. Its aim is to frame military service as a way to do public service, even though it is not normally thought of in such a way. That initiative, for which I am the current student coordinator, is the focal point of military-connected undergraduate students.

Community groups exist on campus primarily for solidarity, but also for education of the greater student body. The growing student movement calling for greater social acceptance of veterans and ROTC cadets at Stanford reveals a newfound appreciation of their role on campus, one that I hope will lead to the formation of a community center. Military-connected students, including those who have family members and friends in the military, all share a unique experience. My hope is to celebrate this shared unique experience with a greater portion of the student body.

The reason I mention social acceptance of veterans is because there have been several instances in which I felt rejected by the community because of who I am. If we as a student body are committed to celebrating diversity, then we need to stay committed to respecting each other at a basic human level, so that discussion of this important issue can take place. Political beliefs should not affect the way you value others, inside or outside the classroom.

The university itself has been very friendly toward the MSAPS project, and the president’s office has funded both ROTC transportation and speaker events for the military community. We are currently planning a Veteran’s Day BBQ at Sigma Nu. The event will be open to everyone. This quarter we will also hold public service events, leadership speaker events, and luncheons for ROTC cadets and other students.

Please join us in developing a community that brings together Stanford students, veterans, and ROTC members. Education about military matters through public, on-campus events and the greater mixing of military-connected students with the rest of campus are instrumental in achieving social acceptance of military-connected students at Stanford.

Sebastain Gould
Military Service as Public Service Student Coordinator at the Haas Center
Philosophy ‘12
Lance Corporal USMC

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