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Combat Marine adjusts to UWRF after deployment

November 1, 2007

Sitting in the University coffee shop, sipping coffee and reading the Student Voice is an average looking student. He is wearing a white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up. On his arms is a tattoo that says, “Carpe Diem”—Seize the Day. By the tattoo, you can see this student is not average after all.

This individual’s name is Brandon Barclay. He is a retired Corporal in the Marines and a Combat Veteran. Barclay was deployed in Ar Aanadi, Iraq, for six months in 2004. While deployed, Barclay suffered three injuries. According to medical records from the Department of Veterans Affairs in St. Paul, Minn., Barclay was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Shrapnel from the IED hit the right side of his body; he was also hit by a bullet in the knee and right hip. Barclay was also struck by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) in a separate occasion which severed the nerves in his right and left arms and shattered his right wrist. A sharp piece of metal also severed a section of his vertebrae.  Barclay can still walk but, due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is unable to work.
At 21 years old, Barclay’s plans of being a lifelong Marine were shattered. He moved back to his hometown of Cottage Grove in 2005. Barclay decided to go to UW-River Falls.

Barclay, now 23, is in his second semester at UWRF, as a Political Science and International Relations major. He is still getting used to the change of lifestyle.

“In the Marines, it’s a brotherhood,” Barclay said. “You never turn your back on each other, you won’t find that in the real world.”

The transition from the battlefield to the classroom can be difficult, and Barclay is still adjusting to campus life, such as the political environment on campus.

“Politics go out the window when you are in combat,” Barclay said.

Barclay finds it “disrespectful and heartbreaking” when he hears students and professors on campus voicing their negative opinions of the war, but he understands that people have their opinions.

Political Science Professor Neil Kraus has Barclay as a student and enjoys having him in class.

“Brandon is hardworking, and he actively participates in class,” Kraus said. “His experience gives him some insight into the material we are talking about in class.”

A classmate of Barclay’s and a Combat Marine Veteran, Nick Carow has gotten to know Barclay.

“He is a normal, nice guy,” Carow said.

Being a veteran himself, Carow knows what the transition of returning to school after the military is like.

“Its hard for a veteran to return to school because things do not seem that important in the short time, the day to day,” he said.

Barclay and Carow are planning on starting a Veteran’s club on campus. Barclay would like the club to be a “support group for veterans … where veterans could share their stories and bring the comradry back on campus.”

Looking back, Barclay does not have regrets joining the military and when asked if he would do it over again,
“Yes, I’d make the decision again regardless of the injuries … it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t,” Barclay said. “We all make decisions in life; you have to deal with it, good, bad or indifferent.”

Barclay’s plans for the future are unclear.

“Finishing school is step one, I can’t go any further,” said Barclay. “[my injuries] stop me from doing things in life that I wanna do.”

His “Carpe Diem” tattoo reminds him to “never be scared, do what you have to do.” He received the tattoo as a gift before deploying to Iraq.