You wouldn’t think a lounge with couches, TVs, and computers would be key to a college student’s success. But if that lounge is a place where military veterans can connect and help each other out, it could mean the difference between dropping out and graduating.

Craig Jackson serves as a peer mentor in just such a lounge at the University of Maine at Augusta. A 22-year Navy veteran who retired in 2003, he’s persuaded student vets with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to seek help at a nearby veterans hospital. He’s talked with professors about how students can make up work if they’ve missed classes because of experiencing flashbacks from fighting in Iraq.

As hundreds of thousands of troops return from Afghanistan and Iraq and take advantage of the education benefits in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, broad efforts are under way to smooth the transition from battlefield to classroom.