Imagine being 27, in your fifth year of marriage, a world traveler and starting your undergraduate degree -- surrounded by college freshmen.
Now add visible, and invisible, wounds of war.
That's the reality of many of today's student-veterans. It was the story of Gerald Kapinos, director of operations for Student Veterans of America.
The nonprofit organization is made up of 500 chapters across the world, including one at the University of Colorado. Its mission is to provide a sense of belonging for student-veterans who feel like outsiders on their campuses because once they start higher education, their support systems may be gone.
"It doesn't fix everything, but it helps," Kapinos said.
On Saturday, CU hosted a Veterans Leadership Summit, where leaders of Colorado chapters and the surrounding areas gathered to learn and encourage each other.
Kapinos said that four years ago, his chapter of SVA was one of only 20 others nationwide. Since then, membership has increased quickly, and the organization is focusing on encouraging the grassroots leadership of each chapter.
"That's what this is really about, preserving that grassroots level," said Josh Lang, vice president of the SVA National Leadership Council and student-veteran at Shippensburg University.
The conference focused on translating the leadership skills learned in the field to civilian life. Veterans are told not to brag, but some who sit in CU classes have had the lives of many people depend on them.
The chapters provide a community for their "brothers and sisters in arms" that is hard to find anywhere else on a college campus.