From Afghanistan to the UT Campus, Student Veteran Continues to Serve

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Douglas OeserGrad student. Loving father. Veteran.

Twenty-five-year-old Douglas Oeser holds all these titles.

Oeser is one of UT’s student veterans. He served the US Army in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008 and again from 2009 to 2010 after working for a while following high school.

“I had this drive, this need, to want to do something more with my life. I left for training four days after signing the contract,” said Oeser. “It was a big spur-of-the-moment thing, but it all worked out.”

When Oeser returned to the United States, he had thirty days to prepare himself for UT, and got to Knoxville two days before classes started.

“I didn’t know where classes were—I didn’t know where the University Center was!”

Oeser recalled that the transition from soldier to student wasn’t easy.

“Everyone in class with me was very warm and welcoming, but there was also that struggle of how people saw their world and how starkly different it was from what I’d been through.”

But Oeser adapted and received a bachelor’s degree in social psychology in 2012. He is currently working on his master’s degree in sociology.

Douglas and DavidWhen he is not in class, Oeser is working as a student assistant in the Office of Veterans Affairs and serving as the president of Veterans at UTK, a campus organization led by student veterans that helps incoming veterans ease into their new role as students.

“We set up meetings at restaurants, so student veterans can meet others that may have similar experiences. We also serve as the collective voice from the student veteran community, saying, ‘These are the things we are having struggles with’ and helping UT respond to them.”

At the end of the day, Oeser comes home to his four-year-old son, David.

“We’re always together,” said Oeser. “I have this drive to be something better…I want to be something he’s proud of.”

Oeser’s life may be busy, but he believes that everything he does is worthwhile.

“It’s been a struggle trying to balance everything out, but it’s been a lot of fun.”

C O N T A C T :

Regina Lewellyn (865-974-1500, rcoving1@utk.edu)

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