“I Just Don’t Like to Have My Car Marked”: Nuancing Identity Attachments and Belonging in Student Veterans

December, 2020

This article explores themes of belonging and attachment in veterans who transition from the military into higher education.


Feelings of belonging factor importantly in college student retention and degree completion; for student veterans, these feelings are strongly associated with college adjustment. The experiences of student veterans in higher education continues to be an area of inquiry, as favorable expansions to GI Bill benefits ease access pathways and institutions adopt support services specific to their veteran and military populations. Despite a wealth of research, explicit investigations into identity conflict and cultural incongruence as aspects of student veterans’ postsecondary experiences are less frequent. This article shares findings from the interview portion of a three-phrase, mixed-methods study with student veterans currently enrolled in, or recently graduated from, four-year colleges and universities in the United States. The study investigated the degree to which 10 diverse undergraduate student veterans aligned their identities as similar to typical military servicemembers, student veterans, and college students using an adapted approach from Mael and Tetrick’s (1992) Identification with a Psychological Group instrument. Results reveal complexity in their identity alignment as well as an acute awareness of the identity negotiations they experience in repatriating from the military into civilian culture largely and higher education culture specifically. The findings support previous scholarship by reiterating the multifaceted nature of identity association for student veterans and underscoring the importance of recognizing diversity among student veterans. Finally, this study adds uniquely to veterans studies research by attending to the ways some student veterans deliberately curate identity performances with faculty and college peers.

Full Reference

Hinton, C. E. (2020). “I Just Don’t Like to Have My Car Marked”: Nuancing Identity Attachments and Belonging in Student Veterans. Journal of Veterans Studies, 6(3), 84–100. DOI:

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