It’s difficult to overstate how much genuine human connections contribute to our well-being in all facets of life. I am learning that this is especially true of veterans. When people—often very different people—come together to share and to listen, great things can happen.
As a senior in college, résumé building is a top-priority sort of task—next behind endless homework of course. Hours of adding, editing, changing, editing and formatting go into the single-sheet “about-to-graduate-and-desperately-need-a-job-to-pay-off-my-loans” certificate of transition. I have been fortunate enough to not need to fluff up my own résumé with vague job descriptions and a list of activities I’m barely to not involved in, in order to feel confident enough to land myself a job once I graduate. Via an exceptionally supportive AU staff, my own human connections, I am currently working my 4th internship this year, an accomplishment that shows the faculty’s care and dedication.
From my work with the Ashland Center for Nonviolence, Taft Elementary, and Dorothy Day House, to now finally working with the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County, I have found myself overwhelmed with opportunities to explore my interests and abilities. Each of these has slowly molded my frame of mind into what I do and do not want to do. What I am currently doing, however, is important not just to my résumé, but also to the Ashland campus and community. Veterans, the “other 1%,” are a minority often overlooked. On AU’s campus, this minority does not currently have what would be an ideal range of services, though certainly not for lack of concern. It would be a harsh criticism to claim that this was due to some kind of intentional neglect of a group in need—on the contrary, a lack of knowledge and resources have led to this deficiency. Through my internship at the MHRB, I have learned a lot about veterans and gained a minimal amount of knowledge with which I hope to help build a supportive community for veterans on AU’s campus.
I have recently been reading about the struggles that veterans face, both in active and inactive duty. “Thank you for your service” is not sufficient support for someone who has faced the moral chaos and inconceivable traumas of war. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and speak with Dr. Paula J. Caplan, who produced both a book and film based on her discoveries of how we are to better help veterans. As a psychology major, hearing a psychologist make the claim that our society is “over-psychiatrized” was shocking, at first. Once what she explained began to sink in, I realized how incredibly true such a statement was. This “other 1%” in our communities is cast away as misunderstood and over-diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. What veterans need more, she claims, is someone to simply listen to them—no interviews, no diagnoses, no counseling. The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project is exactly that: listening to veterans.
Inspired by her efforts, Steve Stone and Jenny Whitmore are re-establishing the Veterans Listening Project in the Ashland Community. As an intern working with the two of them, I have had the privilege of being involved with this project and being the student connection between the Board and the University. We are currently working with a group of concerned and passionate faculty and students to not only bring the Project to AU’s campus, but also to establish a “trauma-informed campus” in which veterans will feel welcomed and not isolated, supported and not ignored, understood and not judged. Efforts to create safe spaces and additional services for student veterans are in motion. Veterans’ voices will be heard—by the campus, and by someone willing to just listen.
Emily Wirtz is an ACN peace scholar and intern.