BC’s Vet Center host speakers

Graham C Wheat, Editor-in-Chief

The transition between two cultures can be trying for anyone. Imagine yourself in a place you think looks familiar, but some of the sights have changed. You have forgotten to speak the language, but you understand what is being conveyed to you. Now imagine that place is the home you have always known, and you have no idea what come next.
This is a transition that veterans must overcome when returning home, and now Bakersfield College is a little more prepared to accept those transitioning soldiers.
BC’s Veteran’s Center, located at 1110 Golden State Highway, hosted a small seminar, Sept. 26, to inform veteran students, as well as teachers and counselors, about the difficulties that they may face when returning from the battlefield to classroom or work environment. It also informed non-veteran students and faculty about mindset and complexity that soldiers have to face when embracing another calling. The event was called “Square Pegs in Round Holes.”
Representatives from the Bakersfield Vet Center, although a part of the Veteran’s Affairs office ( or VA) they are not directly related to the VA and offer counseling with no clinicians or physicians, welcomed three BC counselors, approximately four veteran students, including famous local veteran Wesley Barrientos, and non-veteran students ( of which there were two) alike to hear the informative lecture from Joe Drullard, who among other things is the Office Manager at the Bakersfield Vet Center.
Drullard, a former Army Green Beret in Iraq and Afghanistan and now full time counselor for veterans, presented a laymen’s model for understanding just how difficult the process can be for returning vets. The title of the lecture alludes to the fact that soldiers have been culturally transformed (square) and must integrate back to a society that is governed by different laws and values (round).
Drullard explained that for many this lecture was an “Aha!” moment that helped them understand the hardships a loved one or friend has faced.
“You wouldn’t expect someone from another country to be an expert on where you’re from the moment they arrive. It is a similar situation with returning soldiers, especially those that have seen combat,” commented Drullard during the presentation.
“Recognize they are from another culture,” he said.
This seemed to ring a chord with those in attendance, as the BC counselors volleyed comments to the speaker regarding that statement. Such as “ That makes so much sense.”
Not only was Drullard speaking to inform faculty and students of this “dual citizenship” that many soldiers carry, but to provide a face and resource to the Bakersfield Vet Center which has now been open and active for 18 months.
Armando Trujillo was one of those faces that were greeting attendees.
Trujillio, a combat veteran as well, is the Bakersfield Vet Centers readjustment Counseling Technician.
“We have tremendous respect for vets in this community, and we want to show it,” said Trujillo.
While he spoke of his record with the armed forces and about some signs that one might gather to ascertain a students military history, such as trouble with small groups and sitting near the back of the class, he also informed the small audience of the amenities Bakersfield Vet Center has to offer: such as ping-pong tables, TVs to watch the game, chairs to comfortably relax in, and of course counselors who have all seen combat. Both Trujillo and Drullard spoke of the numerous trips and events that the Bakersfield Vet center organizes or facilitates.
Most striking was Trujillo’s comments toward the staffing problems at the Bakersfield Vet Center.
“ We are four counselor’s serving the entire county. That means all those outlying areas only get us too. We have a lot of veterans in this county, you do the math.”
While understaffed, it is still an important place to veterans in this county with Wesley Barrientos adding, “Places like the Vet Center get us ready for the classroom.”
Drullard received questions from those in attendance and answered summarily.
“I am hoping to get some vets that I wouldn’t normally see at the Center,” said Drullard on his motivations for holding the seminar. “I want to help teachers and counselors and [students] become aware of these issues.”
He gave one last recommendation to those in attendance who are veterans or know one.
“Come in and get some coffee. There are no physicians, no clinicians, just people who can relate. Let’s just talk,” said Drullard.