For more than 16 years of my service I was an advisor to the commander and an advocate for junior Marines, those with lesser authority and almost no voice or influence who perform the lion’s share of intense combat. Currently, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs employs a reactionary method of treating mental health, attributed to governing authority. My project will attempt to address mental health problems in a proactive process through self-expression, self-awareness and empowerment pre-traumatic experience.
The project was to assemble into a small journal some of my experiences of wartime service assembled into poems, aphorisms, and quotes. This literature reflects pre, during and post war experiences over a 15-year period. The purpose was to create a portable journal with prompts in hopes of inspiring the owner to reflect and record their own experiences for their own purposes. Therefore, this passport size, durable journal designed for the young service member and those who look to understand them and their experiences.
This project was emotionally difficult, and the final product was a bit more challenging than anticipated. As a part of my process, I decided to research some of my own family origins, friends and those I served with in combat. I visited my mother’s birth place for self-reflection, visited with friends in the northeastern United States to confirm events, and took my son to Arlington National Cemetery for the first time to allow him to visit his Godfather final resting grounds. All of which brought intimate feeling and memories to the surface. This process allowed me to refine my reflections to words that I hope will inspire others. Throughout the process, my advisors were readily available to provide support and recommendations. The foreword of the journal captured the purpose of this project like I never would have. It also provided me an opportunity to come full circle in many experiences of wartime service.
It is my intent to have these journals distributed wherever needed as a tool for self-care and assistance for those of us who may struggle understanding and recognizing parts of ourselves after traumatic injuries. For the service member, veteran, family, friends and support system that provides the greatest of love and peace, I hope these words assist them in building bridges between each other. It takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, it takes a village to receive a warrior returning after defending their home in battle(s).
Veterans face challenges in their transition from active duty to becoming a full-time student. Among these challenges are misconceptions, judgements, and negative beliefs from their non-veteran student counterparts. As the student veteran population continues to grow, these same challenges will become more prevalent and it may be worthwhile to provide resources for student veterans. From previous studies done on student veterans, I have found that many student veterans face common issues such as struggling to fit in with the student body, loss of self identity, as well as well as the lack of a support system.
My findings have shown that veterans who feel included are more likely to put in more effort towards their academics as well as their extracurricular activities on and off campus. Additionally, the leadership, teamwork skills that veterans bring to the campus can enhance student experiences on campus. This research along with survey gathered from Whittier College students will will be used to support these findings on the benefits of student veteran inclusion. Recommendations will be made for Whittier College how they can assist in integrating student veterans and enable them to succeed.