Advocate salutes University’s work with military vets

UW-Green Bay students, veteransThe University of Wisconsin-Green Bay invited Army Nurse Alison Lighthall to campus in early December seeking strategies to improve reintegration for returning veterans.

It received that and more. School officials received strong affirmation about the work and assistance for veterans already in place at UW-Green Bay.

“I can say without reservation that UW-Green Bay is ahead of the curve in efforts to assist your ‘warrior students,’” Lighthall said.

“Very few U.S. colleges and universities have made this unique group a priority the way your school has,” she continued. “It is inspiring. And the fact that you are not willing to stop there — that you want more information, more ideas to expand your support — is what impresses me the most. Those who have served this country are in good hands at your school. And those who have not yet served in their own way are getting a rare chance to understand those who have.”

Lighthall works for Hand 2 Hand Contact (a href=””>, an organization dedicated to educating civilians across the country about the psychosocial impact of war on returning service members. Its goal is to assist communities in understanding, supporting, and reintegrating service veterans.

UW-Green Bay had 275 soldiers and veterans enrolled in classes for fall semester 2008, and many are awaiting activation orders for 2009.

In conjunction with Lighthall’s visit, the University documented initiatives supported and led by campus personnel:

• UW-Green Bay initiated an annual Veteran’s Reception in 2005 to recognize those coming back to campus after activation and to honor all veterans on campus and in the community. The early-November event has grown each year, with more than 100 campus and community members attending in 2008. The gathering allows veterans to meet other veterans.

• Collaboration with faculty, staff and student groups resulted in this fall’s visit and keynote presentation by Lighthall, who led discussion about psychosocial impacts of war on returning soldiers as they enter or re-enter an academic setting. Her expertise is in suicide prevention, intervention, postvention and critical incident briefing. Her visit included training for UW-Green Bay’s Student Review Team (SRT), and her presentation was open to the general public.

• UW-Green Bay boasts extensive campus collaboration in support of veterans with representatives from the Dean of Students Office, Counseling and Health Center, Residence Life, Public Safety, Veterans Services and Disability Services. (Lighthall commended UW-Green Bay for being a higher education leader in its collaborative approach to serving veterans.)

• UW-Green Bay has a dedicated staff person who works specifically with veterans as a campus point of contact. This staff member regularly seeks professional development training in areas of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, sexual assault issues, and education benefits.

Care packages are sent to UW-Green Bay service men and women.• UW-Green Bay sends about 10-15 care packages annually to UW-Green Bay service men and women, and also to military family members and friends of UW-Green Bay students stationed internationally. They are supplied with, among other items, gift cards, phone cards, sports equipment, DVDs and snacks and gum. Click to see more photos.

• UW-Green Bay has an active and growing Vets 4 Vets Club with strong student leadership. Its mission statement centers on providing student veterans updated benefit information and support, while building friendships with returning veterans and those who support our troops. The club’s outreach includes volunteer efforts with Bart Starr’s Training Camp for Seniors and at the Veteran’s Hospital at King, Wis.

• UW-Green Bay’s Director of Disability Services is secretary of WI AHEAD (Association for Higher Education and Disability). The organization hosted a Veterans Summit in November 2008 with representatives from regional veterans centers, the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs, regional county Veterans Associations, Veteran’s Vocation Rehabilitation Counselor, veteran hospitals and a representative from Anoka (Minn.) Community College discussing its model program. This summit provided up-to-date information on the most common injuries facing today’s returning veterans, and addressed transition issues, post-secondary concerns and services veterans can obtain.

• Wisconsin veterans have an opportunity to share their experiences in campus public forums. Staff Sgt. Joseph Streeter, a national guardsman from the Wisconsin 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, talked in November about the effects of his deployment to Iraq on himself, his family and his fellow soldiers. The discussion was sponsored by the Friends of the Cofrin Library.

• Campus Student Services personnel have regular contact with Veterans Administrative personnel to the ongoing discussion regarding assistance to veterans who are students.

• The Alumni Association and Office of Marketing/Communication are quick to highlight the great work of alumni veterans and active military personnel in campus publications. Receiving an Outstanding Recent Alumni Award in 2008 was U.S. Marine Captain Amy Roznowski, a Cobra helicopter pilot. Lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, Paul Goymerac was featured for his work in improving conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center. Go to story.

• In addition, many campus staff members have taken personal roles in providing encouragement and services to veterans. Among the initiatives: scrapbooks for the families of fallen soldiers from campus and the local community.

• Yet to come: Plans for a survey to the veterans now taking classes at UW-Green Bay regarding their challenges, and the campuses future support capabilities.