Joshua Carico left the Marine Corps in 2017 and enrolled at East Central College soon after.

“Right now, I’m mostly taking general education courses,” he explained, “but I’m looking into criminal justice courses for next year.”

Carico hopes to transfer to a four-year college and eventually become a conservation agent. He admits the transition from the military to civilian life has come with its share of struggles.

“I was in charge of 15 people,” he said. “Now, I’m just in charge of myself. It’s very different.”

To help students like Carico with the transition, East Central College recently created a dedicated space for veterans to study and relax.

“I’ve been wanting to create a veterans lounge for several years,” said Lorrie Baird, financial adviser. “We really just never had space for one.”

Space opened up over the summer in the Donald Shook Student Center, and Baird jumped on the opportunity. She said the next challenge was furnishing the room.

“We received donations from staff, friends and family,” said Baird. “The support has been amazing.”

The lounge has a refrigerator, snacks, coffee-pot, TV, couch, desks and a computer.

“We have nearly 120 veteran students at East Central College, and we wanted to give them a truly special place to call their own,” said Baird, adding that word has been spreading about the new room, and more veterans are utilizing the space.

“It’s been great to meet other veterans on campus,” said Carico. “It’s good to talk to other people who’ve shared a similar experience to you.”

“I think it is a great idea,” said student Phillip Brown, also a veteran. “It’s heartwarming to see all the donations that have poured in to give us our own space. It gives veterans a place to go and relax and be with like-minded individuals.”

Those interested in donating to the lounge can contact Lorrie Baird,