It’s dark and cold outside, but there is no time to show it. I am tired but can’t feel it. I’m on my third cup of black-joe and I can’t stop moving.

I lean to check the time, just 30 more minutes until show time, but I don’t know if I am ready.    

I look my peers in the eyes, I see the reflection of my own emotion — anxiousness, uncertainty and edginess.

Five minutes remaining, as I walk with my hands full, I look down at my notes for the last bit of information I can get about the enemy.

I am a former United States Marine attending college. The enemy here is the make-or-break final examination for biology at 7 p.m.

Many veterans see the world outside of the military drastically different than active duty life. I am a veteran seeking a career outside of the military. As I started studying, I slowly began to find similarities between the life inside and outside of the military.

Whether you’re a veteran seeking higher education, technical certification or just a way to be paid while you figure out the next step in your life, it is essential to have a plan and someone to help you with that plan.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development reports 40,056 veterans sleep homeless every night. On a darker note, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs health care properties, 20 veterans take their own lives each day.

When it comes to higher education, since being honorably discharged from the military I have attended four different institutions including two universities and two community colleges.

Some of these institutions have set the bar for veteran services and others were just OK.

Veterans are allotted certain benefits to attend college with ease. However, the details on how to apply for and maximize these benefits can be difficult to navigate, especially for first time users.

Orange Coast College sets itself above all other institutions that I have attended in terms of efficiency and general effectiveness.

This is not a knock on other schools, however, when the Veterans Resource Center is located in what could easily be misconstrued as a dungeon in the bottom of a building staffed with ill-equipped and unadvised students, mistakes are bound to occur.

And with Veterans benefits, one mistake made could mean the student doesn’t receive housing payment for the work that was rendered.

At one university in particular, I did not receive a payment from the VA two months into the semester and was very close to being evicted for it. This was due to a simple error made by the VRC staff that heavily delayed my payment.

At OCC, from the first mandatory meeting with the Veteran Services staff before taking classes, I learned more about how to maximize the benefits given to me than I ever did from all three previous institutions combined.

If that wasn’t enough, the Veterans Services staff here at OCC make it clear they sincerely care about their veterans’ success and take every meeting very seriously.

An effective veterans' services at colleges can mean the difference between a veteran moving on to do great things or becoming another statistic.

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