Homeq and aQ&A with David Harwell, 14-year Navy veteran

Q&A with David Harwell, 14-year Navy veteran

Interview and photo by Sorayda Rivera

Q: What is your major?
A: I am a psychology major.

Q: What made you decide to enroll at TJC?
A: I wanted to help more veterans dealing with issues like most of us do. It got hard to see all the issues and the avenues that we go with. TJC has an incredible community and a commitment to success, so I felt like it was the perfect place for me.

Q: How long have you been a student at TJC?
A: Fully one and a half years.

Q: Your group is being renamed as you are now a TJC chapter of the Student Veterans of America, can you talk to me about that?
A: SVA is a larger organization within the United States of veteran groups and helps us on a large scale as our honors society does to branch out, network and move forward. The sense of community and family is important to our students and our veterans.

Q: What is the purpose of your organization?
A: The purpose is to let the veterans on campus know there are others here going through similar hardships and supporting our students to go as far as possible and to ensure they have a safe place to come and study and get things off their chests in their day to day and some place to relax. Dependants of the students are also allowed as well so we have other faces to know if anything serious comes up and we can better help them.

Q: What are your responsibilities in your organization?
A: I am the president, and I try to put a face with a name with every veteran on our campus so each semester I can do a weekly check-in with them if possible. If they aren’t doing so well, I show them our resources for tutors and our student resource center on campus so that they have as much access to what they need as possible. I also set up our meetings on a monthly basis and listen to any concerns or anything other veterans would also like to see here at TJC.

Q: How long have you been a part of this organization?
A: I actually ran this organization through the Student Senate my first semester on campus and got it approved through all the appropriate channels, and I hope it lasts a long time after I have graduated.

Q: Are there membership requirements for the veterans’ organization?
A: The main membership requirement is the service member has to have honorable discharge on their DD214.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your organization?
A: COVID hasn’t really impacted us as much. We are trained to handle any situation on a very quick twitch reaction basis so we can move more fluidly and tactfully as we can, so we just ride with the waves and see the best way to move around it if we can.

Q: You mentioned that in the past your group hasn’t had a lot of members, why do you think that is?
A: A vast majority of veterans want to just get their degrees done and not much else. I won’t look down on anyone for that. Whether it is due to families, jobs, responsibilities or what have you, it always takes a leader to step up and try to strive for those who can’t.

Q: What are you doing to change that?
A: This semester I actually have a lot more veterans on the main campus that I see daily and that is actually helping in some aspects. I am also trying to find an area on the other campuses to ensure we can get better information dispersal out to them so they know we do have events planned and coming up, and local resources they may not know that we have at their disposal.

Q: What would you tell a veteran interested in coming to TJC?
A: I would tell any veteran to come to TJC and to work their hardest. From the faculty to support staff and even the camaraderie of students, it has definitely made a lasting impression on my life.

Q: Is there anything you would like to see happen at TJC for the future?
A: Yes, I would like to see the campus offer us our own resource center that is tied into the Veteran Affairs office. As a veteran student chapter so that the veteran body knows that the school backs us more thoroughly and solidly.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell me about you?
A: Well, I also go to the local community veteran meetings here in Tyler. I am a member of the Local American Legion Post 12. I also work disaster relief yearly and co-run a veteran-owned search and rescue crew in my spare time while trying to do everything else that I can. I also try to ensure anyone and everyone on campus finds what they need, and I try to answer any questions I have ever been asked since being here.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell me about the organization?
A: I hope it continues a lot longer than my life and only helps the campus grow and the bond with many, many more veterans in the future, as well. Our organization also mentors people thinking about going into the military or who are going through the process to go in.

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