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Veterans Help Each Other In Sacramento State College Course

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It may look like any other class at Sacramento State, but there's a bond that these students of all ages share far beyond the classroom.

A professor at Sacramento State started the class for students who served our country.

"I realized these guys are my family now," said Sean Johnson, so spent nine years with the Coast Guard. "These guys are just as much as family as I had in the military."

For veterans like Johnson who have been out for five, 10, or even 30 years, this is a sanctuary.

Ealy Cottle, a Vietnam vet feels like a part of the team again.

"We're in one spot talking about everybody's different challenges, and it makes it one challenge," he said.

Professor Beth Erickson collects homework. But for this class, her students go on trips—whitewater rafting, and to Yosemite.

She decided to start the program last semester after one of her students, also a vet, had a severe bout with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"He needed help," she said. "He was suicidal that day in my office."

She knew there may be others like him, so her class is just for vets. It offers help on a college campus for those who may struggle to get back to normal in society.

"We do a lot of self-reflection," she said. "They try to figure out who they are, and what they want to be."

There are a few classes at other colleges for just veterans, but this class appears to be a first, where veterans end up mentoring other veterans.

Johnson joined the Coast Guard on Sept. 11. He says taking the class last semester changed his life.

"You can feel like, I don't belong here," he said. "I'm not smart enough to sit in this seat."

Now, the Sacramento State senior is a mentor helping veterans overcome the same challenges he faced.

"What this program does is it says absolutely you belong here," he said. "You belong just as much as any student on this campus."

Erickson says this is the most rewarding class she's taught, hands down.

"I've taught for 13 years straight, and I've never taught a class like this."

The professor says she wants to expand the program soon. As she points out, this class is helping dozens of veterans, but there are hundreds here on campus.

Since the class started last semester, we're told membership to the campus student veteran organization has doubled.

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