Scott Dawson said it was hard for him to adjust to civilian life when he finished four years of service with the Marines in September 2005.
The 29-year-old student at Washington State University's Tri-Cities campus said his family supported him. But he still struggled with separation anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, issues Dawson said civilians had a hard time understanding.
"Thankfully I knew I wanted to go to school but I didn't know a lot of veterans," he said. "I was just longing for that common brotherhood."
Dawson and other veterans and supporters are working to keep other veterans from feeling isolated by working to build a veterans monument on the Richland campus.
They are asking veterans, their family members and others in the community to submit stories, quotes and anecdotes to become part of the monument. Deadline to submit items is Thursday.
"We wanted something to symbolize the community, offer a future place for veterans to gather," said Jason Alves, a veteran and adviser for the Veterans Club Association and Support.
More than 160 students, or about 11 percent of the student body, at the Richland campus are veterans, say campus officials.
The veteran's club, of which Dawson is president, formed a few years ago with student veterans and some of their civilian supporters.
The bronze monument, which is being made by Mid-Columbia artist Tom McClelland, will resemble a book with its pages blowing open. Rising from the book will be five individual pages with inscribed stories. The sculpture will be about eight feet tall and a little less than four feet wide.
McClelland said he was approached by the club about a year ago to design the monument.
"Originally, my idea had been inspired by letters written by veterans of the Iraq War," he said.
Alves and Dawson said that finding support was one of the most difficult things after leaving military service. Dawson said he was fortunate that a former mentor introduced him to another veteran to help him through his struggles.
The monument is meant to act as an icebreaker of sorts, a reminder to veterans they are valued and supported. Likewise, sharing their stories could help other struggling veterans.
Dawson said all the submissions won't fit on the monument but those that don't will be on a website dedicated to the monument.
"I need those stories as soon as possible so we can edit to fit them," McClelland said.