Spotlight on a Student Vet: Erin Murphy

Erin-Murphy-Feature-PageErin Murphy always listened in awe to her neighbor’s stories of being a World War II Prisoner of War. His plane was shot down in German-occupied France. He spent time in POW camps, eventually returning home and earning a Purple Heart for his service.

“He was an amazing man,” Murphy said.

His stories and the service of some family members motivated Murphy to join the military. She enlisted in the Army National Guard. “I wanted to be able to serve my country but also not put college on hold,” said the sophomore human resource management major.

When Murphy started classes at Ship last year, she expected the demands of service and schoolwork to be a challenging balance. The National Guard requires drills one weekend each month from Friday through Saturday as well as two weeks during the year, which usually falls in the summer. Although the drills occasionally require Murphy to miss class, she said the faculty has been very supportive.

“The professors here are great with students. They understand the commitment. It’s been a lot easier of a transition than I expected,” she said. “It’s exciting, because not everyone gets to say they can serve their country while also going to school.”

Because Murphy understands the challenges faced by student veterans, she got involved in SU’s Student Veterans of America group. In her initial role as transition officer, she helped new student veterans get acclimated to college life. Today, she is secretary of SVA.

“These are military-oriented students. For myself, it’s not too bad of a change. For older vets who may have spent twenty years in the military, a lot of them have PTSD and it can be hard to get to class or take a moment when they need it.”

Student veterans look just like everyone else, she said, but they’ve had vastly different experiences. She encourages the campus community to try and understand where veterans are coming from. “What’s going on through their mind is completely different. Some of them have seen horrific things. …We have to have a voice for student veterans.”

That’s one reason that Murphy and her student veteran friends are involved in activities across campus. When she attended orientation at Ship, she recalled what she said was that cliché moment telling her, “This is where I’m supposed to be.” She hit it off with the Orientation Team leaders and applied to join as a freshman. Through orientation, she has worked on Welcome Week and other activities. She also meets with student veterans who come to orientation, grabs lunch with them, and takes them on a tour of campus to show them what resources they have at their disposal.

The Student Veterans Lounge in the Cumberland Union Building provides a space for veterans to talk and relax. “A lot of veterans are commuters. Here, they can put their lunch in the fridge, take a nap, talk with other vets, or just sit and not have to worry about other student distractions.”

Murphy calls her Ship experience “amazing” so far. She’s pleased to see on-campus events for student veterans and SU’s ROTC, but hopes to see more in the future. “We want to let people know about us.”

This Veterans Day, she remembers and thanks those who have served. “They are the reason we have what we have, and I will not take that for granted.”

To learn more about resources for veterans at Ship, visit http://www.ship.edu/veterans/.