The stop animation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer contains a song that I would like to say likens to my life. The scene opens with a bunch of broken or ineffective toys on an island, singing about how nobody wants them cause they’re different, but through a slightly depressing but relatable musical number entitled “The Island of Misfit Toys,” they find friendship in being thrown together under unfortunate circumstances. That is the perfect metaphor for this group.
Kevin, Divya, and Shelby were people I’d had classes with before but, like most of my fellow Journalism majors, didn’t know that well. We were thrust together by fate–if fate’s name was Brady Teufel–under the premise that at least one of us would know what we were doing. This was partially true: Divya had some Mustang News experience, Kevin was handy with a camera, Shelby had story ideas right off the bat and I…well, I was good at talking. Shelby threw out an idea for a story on the dairy unit, and with a resounding, “sure, we could do that” from the group, we went our separate ways for the weekend.
Monday brought a world of pain we had not prepared ourselves for. We sat calmly in the hallway, ready to present our topic to the J462 Overlords, formerly known as Teufel and Brendan, when we heard it: “we’re doing a story on entrepreneur stuff in the dairy department.” Panicked looks were exchanged. Our topics were too similar, and seeing as the other group was already far more prepared, we’d be the ones to have to change our topic. The topic of student veterans and the Veteran Success Center came to us seemingly out of nowhere. Genuinely, I could not tell you now how we arrived at the subject, but it seemed newsworthy and like something that should be written about. A quick morgue search depicted it as an original idea so we decided to run with it, though Kevin voiced the concern, “how do you get B-roll of veterans?”
Most people might have assumed this, but veterans are very private people. We learned the hard way that many of them are not privy to being on camera. Our original angle of the transition from combat to student life had to be changed last minute to support systems on campus for veteran students. “The fact that student veterans would be camera shy makes sense,” says Divya, “alas, hindsight is 20/20. If nothing else, I’ve learned from this project that Murphy’s Law is still a thing.” We ended up interviewing three lovely dependents who work in the center, either as part of work study or simply to give back to the veteran community. “The veterans center is like family,” says third year Alexis Williams.
Despite the setbacks and challenges, the story took on a life of its own in the best way possible. “Gathering the information was hard at first, but what we got in the end was really something special,” says Shelby. We learned a lot about student veterans and veteran dependents that we’d never known before. They are a crucial part of our campus, and we thank them for their service.