Photos by Steve Shay
South Seattle Community college students, and veterans, Dorsal Plants, left, and Ryan Shannon, both West Seattle residents, speak at the campus' first veteran club meeting. They hope to get the ball rolling with more participation as nearly 140 students there identify themselves as veterans.

Veterans Club organizing at SSCC, students encouraged to join

The first South Seattle Community College veterans club meeting was held Thursday, Oct. 13. About 18 male and female students who are veterans attended, although 66 have signed up. Nearly 140 veterans attend South. The club president is West Seattle resident and South student, Army veteran Ryan Shannon. We just posted a story about Shannon here.

Assisting him is Dorsal Plants, 27, a Delridge resident from West Virginia, and also an army veteran. He served in two tours of duty in Iraq in the U.S. Army, 19 Delta Cavalry Scout, from 2002 to 2007. Many in West Seattle are familiar with Plants as a 2009 City Council candidate, and area political activist. He is both a full time student and full time Veteran Corps employee on campus. It is a branch of AmeriCorps and managed by the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs. He also serves on the board of the Veteran Advisory Committee on campus which was started by the school president in response to Gov. Gregoire's Sept., 2009, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of veterans and veteran's issues.

Instrumental in organizing the club is Delores Taylor, South's certifying official for veterans and liaison between the Veterans Administration and the school. One of her goals is to set up a chapter of Student Veterans of America like those at UW, Seattle U. and Bellevue College.

The veteran club meeting began when Shannon shyly announced, "My name is Ryan. I'm the president of the vet club, I guess." He added," We want to improve our life here on campus. We've been granted a temporary space for the year and have to prove that we have the need for it. It will be kind of like a safe zone, a chill space, where veterans can come, do homework, maybe have a computer. The room will be on campus, but we're not sure where, yet."

Said Plants, "If we have enough veterans who want a room, then it becomes a permanent room. Then we have the ability to define what that space could be. We can go out into the community and find somebody who supports veterans to give us a big screen TV and an Xbox and we can sit in there and shoot fake people on TV all day, or we can create a homework space, or look at potential childcare. It will be all of us deciding how to move forward."

Plants brought up a specific issue that could improve the veterans' campus experience.

"I think we (veterans) have a right to priority registration," he said, meaning that South should allow them to register for classes with certainty, and without waiting to see if their class is filled. "The Running Start kids coming out of high school have priority registration. I think we deserve it, too.

"If you don't get into a class, you don't get yout VA benefits," he pointed out. "If you don't get your VA benefits, well, you don't get your rent. And if you don't get your rent you're struggling to get back into housing. And your whole situation is now skewed and you're going to add stress to yourself for, frankly, no good reason. It's a cascade effect."

Shannon, Plants and a few others at the meeting came up with having a clothes drive, especially jackets, for homeless veterans, perhaps initiating a friendly competition with another veteran club. They also began planning a paintball outing, and discussed participating in the school's Veterans Day memorial.

After the meeting, Plants spoke to the West Seattle Herald, and said unemployment is 10-percent higher for veterans, and 18 veterans per day commit suicide. He said there are barriers that prevent veterans with post traumatic stress to talk openly to other veterans, and that may lead to suicide.

"It's difficult to talk about," Plants acknowledged. "From the minute you get in (into the service) it's unit cohesion and you are everyone around you. If you drag the team down you're (considered) a horrible person. He said with disappointment that some veterans refer to other veterans who have PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or TBI, or are homeless as 's***bags', and say they have no value.

"You have that hardness that's hurting soldiers, but at the same time that hardness is what's preparing people to deploy. It does exist for a reason."

Plants, as those who know him, is quite left-wing, politically.

He explained, "I get asked a lot about being a liberal vet. Who says all veterans are conservative meat-eaters? When I was in, there were a number of individuals who felt like I did and shared the same views. We all just put our politics aside to serve our country, which is something we'd like to see the politicians do."

If you are a veteran at South, or a community member interested in participating and helping the group, please contact Delores Taylor at:
(206) 934-6743.

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