Young veterans transition to civilian life

Army vets grateful for day to honor them, other soldiers

EL PASO, Texas - The 1st Armored Division Army Band rocked the UTEP Union Plaza Monday afternoon in honor of Veterans Day.

With an electric guitar and drum kit, it is not what one imagines when one pictures a "military band."

The jams drew the admiration of UTEP students filling out thank-you cards to our nation's veterans at a table set up in front of the stage.

One of those students was Aaron Foster, with a small American flag tucked into his backpack and a Army camouflage-colored rubber wristband. Foster isn't just a Bio-Chemistry major. The Kansas native also served in the Army.

"Rather than be there as a part of the country, I wanted to actually do something for my country," said Foster, adding he was inspired to sign up after 9/11.

Foster was stationed at Fort Bliss from 2006 to 2011.

Now, El Paso is home.

"When I got out, I wanted to maintain that strict military discipline and have my freedom as a civilian," Foster explained. "It's almost like a clash of oil and water. You have to find an even balance between the two."

While the Army band rocked out behind Foster, invigorating the crowd, Foster's tone grew serious as he talked about the dire need for civilians to understand how difficult the transition out of military life can be.

"There is a transition that has to happen and that does take time," Foster said. "For most, it's a simple transition. For some it's a hard transition. But it is there. It's not just someone taking off a uniform and putting on a T-shirt.

"But just be patient with us. We're trying! We're just like you guys, we're trying!"

Foster was soon joined in the Union Plaza by his friend and fellow veteran, Daniel Krause.

They only met a few months ago on campus -- but became fast friends.

"It doesn't matter," said Krause, explaining how easy it is to connect with other veterans. "We've all been through similar situations where we've all had to deal with that kind of stuff."

Both agree -- this holiday is a much-deserved time to honor our vets.

"We're the ones who fight for your rights as a country, going overseas and putting our lives on the line," said Krause. "Even though it's a volunteer thing, sometimes it's not so much a volunteer thing, but a volunTOLD."

Krause explained how he knew he wanted to enlist at the age of 4 after being exposed to the military through key role models among his friends and family.

Meanwhile, Foster joked -- one perk of Veterans Day: he eats for free all day.

"I was much more full in my heart than in my stomach, but they both kind of evened out by the end of the night," Foster said, laughing.

On Veterans Day, as in life, Foster is all about finding balance.

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