Nov. 11, 2015
I was very young, newly married, living in a mobile home on the plains of South Dakota with no friends or family nearby and no option to leave. I waited tables to pay the bills and went to school in a temporary trailer at night. The weather was harsh and unforgiving and I had to tiptoe around rattlesnakes as I walked through a field to get to work. There were days that my tips were the only cash we had until payday.
Every morning my husband ironed his clothes to perfection, drove through a security checkpoint and went to his office in a cavernous airplane hangar. He reported to an office he had no part in choosing, in a state we were ordered to move to. On any one of those days he could have been told to pack his gear and head out to some dangerous conflict in the world. Saying “no” would not have been an option.
My husband was an airman. He had enlisted in the United States Air Force and went to basic training two weeks after our wedding. I was finally able to join him at his first assignment at Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, South Dakota.
It was a completely different life for both of us. It was hard. It was scary. It was demanding. It challenged both of us in ways we never dreamed possible. Yet, for all those challenges, we actually had it easy. He was never assigned to temporary duty away from me, though many at the base were. He never had to risk his life in conflict. I didn’t have to raise children on my own while their dad was in some foreign land. He didn’t suffer horrible war injuries. I was never made a widow.
Yet all of those things were distinct possibilities the day he signed up to serve his country. Those are the realities families face when a member serves in the military. It’s something very hard to understand for anyone who hasn’t lived it. Given that only roughly 7 percent of Americans are veterans or currently serving, it’s important to understand what those Americans face.
Joe Grimm, an instructor in MSU’s School of Journalism, recognized the need to help others understand. He teaches the course, Bias Busters, where students research, write and edit a series of books exploring different cultures. The class’s latest book is “100 Questions and Answers About Veterans: A Guide for Civilians.” To learn more about the project, read his FACULTY VOICE: Who is a Veteran?
Unfortunately, post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real possibility for service members who have faced combat. A team of students from MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences worked on a project to help law enforcement agencies understand and help veterans with the disorder.
Led by Amol Pavangadkar, a specialist in the Department of Media and Information, and with collaboration with David Stephens from the School of Criminal Justice, the students produced a training video for agencies to serve as a guide for how they can have a positive impact on veterans in their community who may be struggling with PTSD.
The director of the Michigan Veteran’s Affairs Agency praised the students saying, “You have no idea the kind of impact you have made with a single video…” Check out the STUDENT VIEW: Helping Understand PTSD, to learn more about the project.
MSU’s Veterans Resource Center is dedicated to assisting service members, veterans, their spouses and dependents with information and resources necessary to meet their academic, professional and personal goals. Additionally, the university earned gold status in the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency’s Veteran-Friendly School program.
Today is Veterans Day. It’s a day put aside for everyone to take pause and recognize the sacrifices our military veterans have made throughout our history. It’s personal to me. In addition to my husband, other members of my family have served including my father, brothers-in-law, cousins and uncles. I work every day with three Army vets. I’m so proud of them. I’m also proud to be a Spartan. Spartans recognize that veterans deserve our deep gratitude, but also our assistance to help them be as successful as possible. Spartans Will.
Photo of the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel by Derrick L. Turner