|October 21, 2011|
Conference focuses on transition of veterans to college, community
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Warriors who stand tall for their country sometimes need a shoulder for support when they return to college or the community. And that’s especially true for veterans who have injuries not readily evident.
Those topics and others will be addressed at a special conference at Montana State University Billings in November for veterans, their families, community supporters, educators and counselors. The conference, “MSU Campuses and Community Wrap-Around of our Veterans: Collaborating to Create Successful Transitions,” is set for Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 7:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the MSU Billings Student Union Building Ballroom.
Sponsored by MSU Billings Student Health Services, MSU Billings Housing and Residential Life, Veterans Upward Bound, the Billings Police Department and with support from Montana State University in Bozeman, the daylong conference will provide different perspectives that support and engage veterans. The discussions include perspectives from student veterans, discussion from family members and presentations on opportunities for community members to “give back” to those who serve and re-engage them in civilian life.
The conference takes on new importance with the announcement Friday from President Obama that all American troops would be pulled out of Iraq by the end of the year, bringing to an end a nearly nine-year military engagement in that country. As some of those troops transition from active duty to veteran status, they will seek opportunities for education and employment.
While the conference will discuss community engagement, equally important will be updates on research related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries, said Darla Tyler-McSherry, interim director of the Student Health Services and one of the organizers of the event.
“People will be able to find out the latest on PTSD and TBI and what it means for veterans in the classroom as well as in the community,” she said.
Many of America’s warriors are already taking advantage of Veterans Administration benefits and returning to college. At MSU Billings this fall, for example, 272 veterans are enrolled.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Charles Hoge, a retired U.S. Army colonel and author of the book “Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior.”
Hoge is a nationally-known expert on PTSD, mild traumatic brain injury and other physiological reactions to war, as well as treatment strategies for war-related conditions. Hoge’s expertise spans psychiatry, trauma, public health, health policy and infectious diseases. His articles in The New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the American Medical Association are the most frequently cited medical articles about the impact of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From 2002 through 2009, Hoge directed the top U.S. research program at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research on the psychological and neurological consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He served as an attending psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, providing treatment to warriors and family members. He deployed to Iraq in 2004 and traveled throughout the country to improve combat stress care in the field.
Now retired from military service, he continues working with service members, veterans and family members and also as a passionate advocate for reducing the stigma of mental health care.
Also speaking at the conference in breakout sessions will be Tom O’Connor, who operates a program called “Warriors and Quiet Waters” that provides veterans a transition to civilian life through fly fishing; Sheila Gaub, who leads an effort called “Quilts of Valor” for veterans; and Leroy Gaub, who runs “Troops to Teachers” that encourages veterans to pursue the teaching profession.
“This really creates opportunities for collaboration and exchange of ideas,” Tyler-McSherry said.
The conference is free for veterans, $20 for family members of veterans and $100 for all others. Up to 7.5 hours of continuing education units will be available for social workers and counselors.
For more information, go to www.msubillings.edu/studenthealth/vetconference/ or call Tyler-McSherry at 657-2564.
PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Charles Hoge