Nashville, Tennessee — A class in contract law at Vanderbilt University is about as far from combat as it gets. Veteran Devin Adams, who served in Afghanistan, has seen both.
"Thirty-three of us in my platoon. Unfortunately, three of them didn't make it home," Adams said.
You can tell he's a veteran by the Ranger tab on his lapel. But Alyssa Hartley might fool you.
"Some people when they think of veterans don't picture me. They think it's a tough guy who's coming in. I like that I get to add a different layer to what it means to be a veteran," Hartley said.
She has seen combat too and flew a helicopter on a mission with special operations forces. But she washed out because of ear problems.
"At this point, my whole world in my mind was gone," Hartley said.
Now, she's in that same class at Vanderbilt University Law School.
"I used to be doing these kinds of missions and other things where my life was on the line. And I could deal with that stress no problem. But here I've got, like, a multiple choice quiz coming up on Sunday and I'm, you know, falling to pieces," Hartley said.
Seven veterans have been awarded $25,000 scholarships to Vanderbilt graduate schools, through the Bass Military Scholars Program. The money both rewards veterans for their service and attracts role models to the campus. They are expected to share lessons of military service with their younger classmates.
"We really bring a worldly perspective that's been informed by sometimes three years, five years, sometimes decades of service," Hartley said.
Adams tells younger students he was late to class and formation so many times at West Point, he was forced to take a leave of absence. "I failed the first time. I had the opportunity to make that right and then was able to succeed," Adams said.
He did a tour as a private first class in Afghanistan before returning to West Point to become an officer. He graduated in May of 2013.
"Great day," he said.
Veterans who return to campus know better than most students, the path to success is not always straightforward.