Thursday, November 17, 2011

A veteran gets married and an active duty soldier talks on campus

Any of you who have followed my blog for any time over the past few years I have been blogging have read of my friend and former student Alan Punsky. Alan graduated from SMC in 2001 with a major in Psychology and then went on to serve in the U.S. Army for his four years - tours in Iraq and Afghanistan impacted him greatly and as he was to get out, he was then Stop-Lossed and returned to Afghanistan for an additional 18 months. I have commented on his service on a number of occasions in this blog. Well, this past weekend in Portland, ME Alan and Katie were married in a wonderful ceremony at St. Joseph's Church. It was an honor for me to be able to attend and I sat with his Mom and Step-Dad (his best man) at the reception. Alan now works in MA putting his degree in Clinical Psychology (earned here at SMC and finished in August 2011) to good work in a social service agency there. I thought it was significant that the wedding took place on November 12th, the day after Veterans Day. We all are grateful to him for his service so it was nice to see him so happy with his bride. Katie is a wonderful young woman and I have come to know her also over the past many months. Congratulations to you both.

Jesse Holland '07 was a Journalism major here and he is currently serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He is a photographer and has some amazing pictures. He was back in the States on a 15 day leave and decided to return here to Saint Michael's to "give back" to a place he feels great affection for. He spoke with our Journalism students on Thursday afternoon and then did a public presentation that evening on DO TELL where he related his experiences with the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell before and after it was recently rescinded. There were over 100 people in attendance at his evening presentation which was co-sponsored by the Psychology Club and Common Ground which is the College's Gay/Straight Alliance. It was a powerful and very personal talk with his family and friends from Irasburg, VT also in attendance. On Monday he returned to campus and spoke for 1.5 hours with my Practicum class. My students are out in the community for the entire academic year on internship sites - they spend 8-10 hours a week on site and 2.5 hours back in class with me. Jesse spoke of how the men and women he is deployed with in Afghanistan AND who are parents are coping with having to leave their spouses and children back home. Since many of my Practicum students work at sites with young children whose parents could be deployed AND since everyone in the helping profession WILL someday work with veterans who have PTSD, it was a fascinating opportunity for my students to interact with Jesse and he was open to their asking him anything. Perhaps the most STARK REALITY is that here he was, sitting in our classroom, talking with us and on Thursday (today) he would be flying to Washington and then directly back to Afghanistan - he is stationed at a site which sits on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan...................

As busy as things are here with registration completed, Thanksgiving just a week away and finals looming in the immediate future my students still were completely engaged in Jesse's talks. We all need a break and fortunately next Tuesday begins Thanksgiving break :)

I hope everyone has a peaceful and restful Thanksgiving and that as part of that Thanksgiving, we do, as I always ask, take a minute to keep all of the members of our military, veterans and active service men/women AND their families in our thoughts and prayers.

Take good care