Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Veterans Helping Veterans

Joe and Ryan, MSW interns at SIU

My name is Ryan McKennedy and I am currently a MSW (Masters in Social Work) student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  I am an Afghanistan Veteran, serving in the Illinois Army National Guard, and currently a Hope For The Warriors® intern during my foundation year of my program.  SIU is the first school to partner with Hope For The Warriors® so it has been an awesome experience to help expand this partnership.  I first found out about Hope For The Warriors® when they visited campus last year. A year later and here I am interning for them.  I think this is an important partnership because we have nearly 700 Veterans here on campus.  Some of the programs Hope For The Warriors® have to offer can help Student Veterans be more successful in school.  Veterans come in a variety of personalities and backgrounds and many of us need help transitioning back to civilian life or through school.  I decided to pursue my MSW because I wanted to help other Veterans.  I missed the brotherhood of being active duty.  We all have each other’s backs and I wanted to extend that into civilian life.  I wanted to help other Veterans and found my calling once I discovered military social work. 

Southern Illinois University just recently established a military social work certificate program and that sparked my interest.  Ever since my deployment, I missed the environment.  I knew I wanted to help other Veterans in my career and the MSW program here at SIU was my ticket in.  I think this certificate program is important because the needs and intricacies of the military can be very complicated and hard to understand.  We sometimes hear Veterans saying that people who did not serve cannot understand them or do not know where they are coming from.  I wanted to be that person who did understand and knew I had to go into the mental health field.  The certificate program allows both civilians and prior service personnel to take classes on military culture and learn about the specific programs our nation’s Veterans face.  It is definitely necessary because we hear about all the problems Veterans face and it is going to take people that really understand what they are going through to help them.

During my time as an intern I have been able to help Veterans in a different capacity than being in uniform.  It is beneficial to be multidimensional and allows me to help more people than I ever thought I would.  I take it personal when a Veteran approaches me asking for help.  I have the same mindset as I did in the military when working for Hope For The Warriors®.  My time at Hope For The Warriors® has been very beneficial and has allowed me to learn more about the issues Veterans face and how to better serve them.  I hope to see the partnership between Hope For The Warriors® and SIU expand over the years and spread to other schools.  I am here to help.       

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