The Volksmarch and "Walk in our Socks" events at Thomas Nelson's Historic Triangle campus drew more than 50 people.
From walks on Veterans Day to a basketball game five days later, Thomas Nelson celebrated and honored its military family in a variety of ways.
And it’s a big family. In the 2018-19 academic year, more than 20 percent of Thomas Nelson's 11,588 credit students were either active duty, a veteran, a military spouse or a military dependent.
Gary Pounder, Assistant Director of Veterans Recruitment, Retention and Advising Financial Aid/Veterans’ Affairs, said he believes the veterans “appreciated our efforts in planning a wide range of activities and events. Moving forward, we hope to integrate our student veterans more fully into the planning and organizational effort, to make them more of a focus of next year’s activities.”
One of the most interesting events was the keynote presentation by United States Air Force Captain Matthew Begola, D.O., a staff psychiatrist at Langley Air Force Base hospital. It was titled “PTSD: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment.”
“That was really great. That was really worthwhile,” said Ann Evans, a biology professor. “I’ve been here for a long time and we always have a lot of military and ex-military.”
But the presentation wasn’t just about the military. PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, is common among rape and domestic violence victims, as well as those who were in accidents.
The first step, as an educator, is trying to identify which students are suffering from PTSD. Not everyone affected is open about it, and that’s where it can become tricky.
“I learned over the years how to identify this,” Evans said. “It’s not just PTSD. It’s students with mental/emotional health issues. As a person who has a family member with a major brain disorder, I am very sensitive to how difficult it is for individuals to deal with these kinds of issues. A lot of times, they are lifelong issues.”
Students who self-identify to a professor help that professor understand mood or behavior swings in a student might signify just a bad day and not more deep-rooted issues.
“I think that’s great (when the students come to her) because that builds a level of trust,” she said. “They know I’m on their side, and I feel gratified that they’re letting me know.”
Learning the effects of any medication a student might be taking also is important. Begola’s presentation disclosed many medications that treat PTSD can make students drowsy. Evans said knowing this helps her understand that just because a student puts their head on the desk, they aren’t disinterested or ill.
“When they disclose, I just feel that makes their experience so much better in the classroom because I can keep an eye on them,” she said.
The hour-long presentation was definitely time well spent, she added.
“I did get a lot out of it. The great majority of students who disclose to me PTSD, they’re military. So it was really helpful to hear that military perspective and to hear the whole gamut of treatments.”
She said everyone at Thomas Nelson can benefit from a session about PTSD.
“Everybody deals with it in the classroom, whether they know it or not,” Evans said.
Other events at Thomas Nelson’s campuses in Hampton and Williamsburg to honor veterans included: a Volksmarch event in Williamsburg that had 54 participants and distances of 5k, 6k and 10k; a Thomas Nelson organized 1-mile “Walk in our Socks” event; spa enrichment services, faculty and student art on display, a session on training service dogs, a clothing drive, a blood drive, and talks on “Understanding Empathy” and “Dimensions of Self-Care and Mindfulness.”
Evans was appreciative of all that was going on.
“We have so many great opportunities to do something like this. I think it’s easy for those to kind of slip by, partly because there are so many of them,” she said, adding she noticed one of her students had artwork on display.
“That was cool, and it was biology related, so it’s really neat,” she said.
At Saturday’s basketball game, the first home game of the season, it was Military Appreciation Day. All military was admitted for free and then honored at halftime.