Guest Blog: Vets Explore Self-Expression Through Art

By: Kristen Hughes
Director of Arts in Healing
The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

Support from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation has enabled Arts in Healing to provide 10-12 hours per week of visual art, music, creative writing, drama and dance to veterans served through the Robley Rex VA Medical Center and to test-drive the concept for a veteran/civilian cooperative called “Warrior’s Heart Community.”

A community member viewing artwork created by veterans in Warriors’ Heart Community pilot project

Warrior’s Heart Community recently completed a highly successful 9 week pilot project, based on steps outlined in The Warrior’s Return, by Dr. Ed Tick of Soldier’s Heart. The process involved veterans sharing stories about their combat experiences and ensuing struggles with civilians who listened non-judgmentally and without attempting to fix or offer advice, serving as Sacred Witnesses to the wounding, and creating a space for healing. In this atmosphere of trust, respect, and empathy, participants explored how all of humanity is affected by war. It was a powerful and profound experience for all.  Over 75% of participants have signed on to help refine the process over the winter so that the community can grow by engaging a new group of veterans and civilian “witnesses” in Spring 2016.

In November, Arts in Healing also partnered with Robley Rex VA Medical Center to present local veteran art at an opening of the From War to Home national photo exhibit.  At the event, art was displayed from Arts in Healing groups in the Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program, the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, Athena’s Sisters-a female veterans’ sisterhood, Heroes Create-a Peer Support dialogue group, and Warriors’ Heart Community.

Nathan Sims, Peer Support Specialist of Heroes Create! sharing artwork created by veterans in the group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog: Vets Rehabilitate in the Great Outdoors

By: Sandra Budak
Executive Director
Honoring Our Veterans

Honoring Our Veterans is committed to helping our nation’s veterans heal. We are very fortunate to have the Disabled Veterans National Foundation partner with us in t20150618_081152his endeavor. We truly believe we are making a difference in these warriors’ lives.

This June, seven combat wounded veterans from across the country enjoyed water sports recreation in stunning Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Without the Foundation’s generous support, we would not be able to offer these rehabilitative therapy programs.

With beautiful lakes at the base of the spectacular Teton Range and a nationally designated scenic river, Jackson Hole is the ideal location for water sports recreation. The activities we offer wounded veterans during this session strengthen physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning. We offer these programs to wounded veterans at no charge; airfare, transportation, lodging, activities, equipment and meals are all paid for with the help of the Disabled Veterans National Foundation.

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We were fortunate enough to witness first-hand just how impactful our recreational therapy can be. For one of our participants, the session marked the first time in ten years that he had left his room for something other than a medical appointment. Since returning home, we are overjoyed to hear that he is starting to get outside again, spending the Fourth of July with friends.

Here is what some of our wounded veteran participants have to say:

“Not once since I have been here have I thought about suicide.” 

“I was comfortable for the first time in years.” 

“I was able to express my feelings without being ashamed of myself.” 

“I was able to feel normal and to actually laugh and feel happy again.” 

“Coming out here to Jackson Hole, Wyoming is an experience I will never forget. After spending 31 years wearing a military uniform, I now understand what I was fighting for. What HOV has put together in what I have come to call “God’s Country” is absolutely spectacular.” 20150623_114929

“I found something that I could say I “Love” once again.” 

“I had good sound sleep that I haven’t had in ten years.” 

Thanks again, Disabled Veterans National Foundation, for making our programs possible!

Guest Blog: 3 Booming Tech Careers for Disabled Veterans

By Rick Kuehn, CEO at GruntRoll; exited the Marines  in 2010 as a Corporal.

One of the many challenges facing disabled Veterans is finding suitable employment. Veterans suffering from PTSD often find difficulty in working in tight-quartered, high-energy environments like the standard American workplace. As a result, some Veterans are turning towards work-from-home professions to overcome the incompatibility some face with a traditional office environment. The youngest generation of combat Veterans are blessed with the distinct advantage of having grown up with technology, and possess a natural affinity to it. These fields are so in-demand that many of the positions aren’t being filled. In a generation of unemployed college graduates, you can find a lucrative career working from home without stepping foot into a classroom.

1) Software Developer

The Software Developer is currently the number one most in-demand profession in the United States, according to Forbes. In fact, this job is so incredibly in-demand you can often start at $25/hour with basic knowledge. Those with several years of experience will regularly find themselves earning much higher rates, especially as contractors. The exact role is a Software Developer varies from job-to-job, and project-to-project. In February, you could be contributing to a new system designed to cache search queries, but in March you could be programming an iPhone app that finds military discounts.

To get started in this profession, you’re going to need a passion for technology and the ability to think critically. If you’re the kind of person who recreationally enjoys problem-solving, there’s a good chance you’ll not only make an excellent Software Developer–but you’ll be happy doing it.

2) Web Developer

So wait, we just talked about Software Developers; isn’t a Web Developer the same thing? Websites are just software that run on web servers, aren’t they?

Yes, basically. However, in practice these are two totally different professions. Those who prefer a more graphical (and less technical) aspect in their work will receive more gratification from a career in Web Development. The beauty of a career in Web Development is that you could literally build hundreds of websites for hundreds of customers without ever having to understand software. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with popular front-end graphical languages (HTML and CSS).

Successful Web Developers will utilize their choice of “Content Management System”, and gain expertise learning to build functional websites for clients by freelancing their skills. Although this field is more saturated than Software Development, there’s still a significant demand for Americans who can create websites. American businesses are becoming more hesitant to offload their needs overseas despite the obvious cost difference. Americans produce the best work, and the overseas development fad is all but come to an end for those serious about a high-quality result.

2.5) Web Software Developer

Did I just invent this job title? Not exactly. Keep in mind, we aren’t in the military and civilians don’t use numbers to identify the position they’re responsible for; civilian life can be much more complicated. A person who enjoys a mix of writing logical code and designing graphic elements will find their passion rests in deep technical understanding of web technology such as JavaScript, PHP, and C#. Web Software Developers will use the same logic as Software Developers, but produce a product which can be visible to others. Software Developers will typically spend their days creating a product which may never be visible to an end-user.

3) SEO (Search Engine Optimizer)

Imagine you’re going to Google to search the healthiest dog food for your Golden Retriever. You enter your search, and some results appear. 85% of clicks will go into the first three results. 1900 people search “healthy dog food” every month, and many of them are potentially buyers for dog food. Out of those first three results, odds are good all three of those results will give you the answer you’re looking for–and maybe even sell you some food for your dog. If you owned an online pet store, how can you get your website into those first three results?

For many companies, the solution is hiring a Search Engine Optimizer.

This field became popular within the last decade since the emergence of Google. Google accounts for 80% of search traffic around the world. This blatantly contradicts my anecdotal evidence which would be more like 99.9% (because I’m pretty saw I caught my elderly relatives using Bing once).

Google uses over 200 factors which plug into a top-secret ranking algorithm they’ll absolutely never share with the public. However, the two proven most significant factors include relevant content and links from other websites. Becoming an SEO doesn’t involve a great deal of technical ability, though you’ll have to learn some technical jargon. Instead, those who possess a natural creative ability to communicate with others will find the greatest success in Search Engine Optimization.

Despite all these terrific career opportunities to work for yourself, it’s like the news is a broken album stuck on the same track: “you need a degree to get a job”. Yet, the same track is repeating the unemployment rates for college graduates. The answer to this is simple: find a career that’s in demand, and isn’t easily attainable for others. No one advising against college. Any of these fields would be greatly supplemented by a degree. Instead, focus on finding a skill that’s in-demand–and become awesome at it.

Guest Blog: Make it Count

By the Student Veterans of America President and CEO, D. Wayne Robinson.

As you settle into the new semester, make it count by lending a helping hand

By the time you’re reading this, classes have started up on college campuses around the country and the semester is in full swing. The scene is much the same as in years previous: syllabi have been handed out and summarily discarded, students justify ignoring the professor with a PowerPoint presentation they’ll wait to open until the night before the final, and the lecture halls have stratified themselves into the barely conscious in back, and overly alert and eager in the front.

20140817_SVASeattle2014-62[1]You may notice one difference, however. Around campus and in among the mixed enthusiasm in the classroom are a handful of veterans. You may also notice that that handful is just a little bit larger than the few you spotted last semester, and the one before. This is no coincidence, and it isn’t unique to your campus.

Since the attacks of September 11 2001, close to 3 million veterans have served in our armed forces[1], and all will soon have returned to their homes and communities. Of those, roughly a third have been and are expected to take advantage of their GI Bill™ benefits[2]. That’s a lot of degree-seeking veterans, and chances are, they’ll end up being your partner on a group project, or the guy who holds open the lecture hall door for you.

With the passage of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, student veterans have their pick of any public institution nationwide, as long as they take advantage of their benefits and enroll within three years of service separation.  This has dramatically broadened their educational options, which means that the handful you encounter now will soon fill out more of the classrooms around campus.

SVA-Leadership-Conference-San-Diego-20140809-289[1]As the presence of this population grows, so too does the need for on-campus, veteran-focused resources. We at SVA stress the importance of peer-based support through our ground-up chapter structure employed on 1,100 campuses nationwide (and growing), and projects such as our VetCenter Initiative. While camaraderie and shared experience is indispensable to the long-term success of student veterans, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Some of these veterans will come with wounds both visible and invisible, with internal struggles and physical barriers, but all will need you to go that extra mile.

These struggles and disabilities look different for each veteran, and often are not visible. This can be aggravated when environmental barriers and a lack of on-campus supports prevent physical, academic, and social access to veterans who aren’t always aware of their disabilities. Add intensive military training that inhibits self-care and negative stereotypes into the mix, and the formula for failure is complete. With a bit of mindfulness, however, equal access need no longer be accommodated.

A truly veteran-supportive campus is one where both familiar faces with familiar experiences can be counted upon to empathize, and unfamiliar faces with vastly different backgrounds are willing to strive for understanding and cooperation. A kind word, a friendly nod, or a heartfelt handshake can speak volumes to a struggling student veteran.

The same can be said of the campus’ administration. Support services provided in a non-stigmatizing, encompassing manner can make a world of difference. “The key to engagement lies with positioning support services as part of a team effort for all students to achieve success, not as a remedial effort for individuals expected to fail,” says The NASPA Foundation, in a study[3] demonstrating that the content of service programs matter just as much as the delivery.

With backing from peers, and a welcoming student body and accommodating administration, student veterans have the tools to make sure they have the same opportunity to hang their prohibitively expensive diploma in a $14 frame as everyone else. So, whether it’s on the way to class, cramming in the library, or grabbing some lunch in the dining hall, make your semester count by lending a hand to a student veteran.

For more information on our programs and initiatives, or to find a chapter near you, please visit www.studentveterans.org.