A desire to help veterans like himself led Richard “Rick” Lang to Georgia State University’s Perimeter College two years ago. Now, Lang, who wants to become a behavioral and substance abuse counselor, is celebrating a significant step toward his goal.
On Dec. 12, the former U.S. Army drill sergeant who served 15 years — including deployments to Iraq during Desert Storm — graduates from Perimeter College during fall commencement ceremonies at Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus.
“I’m kind of a laid-back person, and I don’t get too excited — but I’m real, real excited,” he said about receiving his associate degree.
Although Lang attended college briefly after graduating from high school, he says returning was daunting.
“When I first walked on that campus, I was terrified,” Lang, now 59, said.
He found a welcoming reception at the university’s Military Outreach Center (MOC), Lang said. There, he says he received personal assistance with managing his post-traumatic stress disorder and his past struggles with alcohol and substance abuse, for which he received treatment and jail time. Now sober for several years, the husband and father says the outreach center also helped with scheduling classes, academic advising and even finding a scholarship to stay in school.
“Some people will say, we’ll call you, and they just forget about you, but they don’t do that,” Lang said about the outreach center.
At Perimeter, Lang got involved in a number of organizations. He participated in the Student Veterans Association and sat on the Student Judicial Board, among other activities. He also found he could serve as a role model for fellow classmates.
“I never understood how much my life experience would help me in the classroom, especially in my psychology classes,” he said.
Lang’s plans now are to combine his experiences, education and faith in God to keep pushing toward his ultimate goal. He will transition to Georgia State’s Atlanta Campus, where he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He hopes to eventually earn a doctorate.
“The bottom line is I’m going to be working with veterans and trying my best to keep them from going through the things that I’ve had to,” he said.