"Did you kill anybody while you were in the military?"
It’s a provocative title for an education-related research paper, admits Lesley McBain, its author.
But it’s not an embellishment. The question is one that young veterans on college campuses routinely face, McBain said Friday during a presentation on student veterans at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education here.
She uses the question -- which she characterizes as "offensive" -- as the driving example of how student veterans are alienated by civilians.
But the question also is off-putting because it highlights a misunderstanding of student veterans -- many were never even in a position to kill someone.
In fact, despite varied topics, all three of the papers presented in the session on veterans suggested that higher education institutions carry misconceptions about and biases toward veterans that limit their ability to support them effectively.
The majority of Americans don’t have direct connections to the military through family who are serving. Sixty percent of veterans under 40 have an immediate family member who is also a veteran, but only 39 percent of civilians under 40 do, according to the study.
That creates a gap between the civilian and military worlds that’s perpetuated by a mutual lack of understanding, McBain said.