There is an estimate of 300 Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans on campus. The Stress Services and Biofeedback area of BYU Counseling and Psychological Services is offering a support group for BYU combat veterans starting Oct. 1.
The support group is managed by Barbara Morrell, coordinator of Biofeedback services, Richard Hooper, Ph.D. at Provo Veteran Center, also a veteran and Jude Hotvedt, pre-doctoral intern and disabled veteran.
“(The support group provides) a safe place for veterans to talk to each other and professional counselors about their experiences of being deployed and then reintegrating into family, school and work,” said Morrell.
Despite the fact that there are many combat veterans on campus, most feel they are alone. Matt Kershaw, a sophomore from Twin Falls, Idaho studying psychology and developmental biology along with other veterans did not realize there were more combat veterans on campus.
“It (would) be cool to know if there are others, I thought I was the only one,” said Kershaw.
Marc DeLuca, BYU graduate student from Bothell, Wash. studying religious studies hopes to become a chaplain. DeLuca joined the army in 2003 and served in Iraq from 2006-2007. DeLuca had two children at home while he was away in Iraq.
“It’s hard to reintegrate with your family,” DeLuca said.
Before DeLuca left for Iraq his second child was not speaking, but once he returned home the child was talking. DeLuca understands the difficulty of returning back to normal life after being in war.
“I think it’s a good thing and worth while,” DeLuca said about the support group. “The first step is to get together and build associations.”
Retired Air Force disabled veteran, Jude Hotvedt, will help with the weekly meetings and offer support for other veterans. She feels there needs to be a program for combat veterans on BYU.
“From (the) military motto, no one gets left behind,” said Hotvedt.
Morrell said there are five challenges that face combat veterans when returning back to school. For combat veterans school and campus life don’t seem quite real after the intensity of war, other students and professors don’t understand what vets have been through, stress from being in and around combat have severe effects, the loss of close relationships and recovery from injuries all result in problems for combat veterans.
As part of the weekly group meetings there will also be fun, interactive games.
“Biofeedback can be so helpful in managing the effects of combat stress,” said Morrell.
Ultimately, the program aims to support BYU combat veterans and help them in their reintegration back to everyday life.
“It’s about empowerment and recovery,” said Hotvedt.
The meetings will be every Monday from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. in room 1582 of the Wilkinson Student Center.