Category Archives: Military

Student startup helps veterans with transition to college

Matt McCall has been there. He knows what it’s like.

Now, with help from GreenvilleSEED@ECU, he’s working to help other veterans make the transition from the military to college.

McCall, who joined the Marines in 2007, deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and was honorably discharged in 2013, said he spent a lot of time in the tutoring lab after enrolling in Coastal Carolina Community College’s pre-engineering program.

“I had a lot of knowledge gaps, especially in math, chemistry and physics,” he said. “A tutor told me I could get some of the tutoring cost reimbursed through the G.I. Bill.”

With the tutoring help, his grades improved, and he began tutoring other vets who needed help.

“I also helped them file their reimbursement paperwork,” McCall said. “Word spread, and within a couple months I had five students, so I started looking for other veterans and veteran spouses at the school who wanted to be tutors.”

With help from GreenvilleSEED@ECU, Matt McCall (right) has started a company that helps veterans like Michael Kohn transition to college. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

With help from GreenvilleSEED@ECU, Matt McCall (right) has started a company that helps veterans like Michael Kohn transition to college. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Now enrolled in East Carolina University’s biomedical engineering program, McCall has started Beyond Tutoring, a company centered on veterans tutoring other vets. He enlisted the help of Katie Thomas, a fellow Marine and tutor.

“Since the tutors are veterans and spouses, they’re able to relate to the students’ struggles well, especially relocating, anxiety and feeling out of place,” he said. “Our common ground helps break down barriers to learning.”

Student Michael Kohn, an undergraduate business management student at ECU, said the difference in lifestyle coming from the military to college can present a challenge, and it can be intimidating working with other students who haven’t had the same experiences.

“You’re not used to the mentality, the way of thinking and working though problems, the homework,” he said. “So having someone who’s been through what I’m going through, telling me how to work through the system, was a big help.”

Kohn said McCall showed him how to organize papers and manage his time.

“Working in the Army, every day is the same thing,” he said. “Matt helped show me how I could take the discipline I learned in the Army and be disciplined in a new way, apply it to the new area.”

McCall joined GreenvilleSEED@ECU to get help refining his business plan and his pitch, and to learn how to scale up the business. GreenvilleSEED@ECU is a partnership between the City of Greenville, the Greenville-Pitt Chamber of Commerce and ECU providing flexible operating space, business expertise and other resources to entrepreneurs.

“As a student entrepreneur, he is juggling the demands of classwork and building a business,” said John Ciannamea of ECU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development. “Our staff has assisted Matthew with business introductions, vetting ideas and evaluating corporate development issues. His base platform is now well positioned for expansion in the market.”

Beyond Tutoring now has eight tutors and has assisted more than 60 students, 23 of whom are disabled veterans. McCall has also received assistance and advice from ECU’s Miller School of Entrepreneurship, the Office of Technology Transfer and the Pitt County Small Business and Technology Development Center.

McCall said his next goal is to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to streamline the reimbursement process. It can take months for a student to get reimbursement for the cost of tutoring. One possibility is to create an online form to speed up the process.

“If we can figure out how to get them their money back in a few days instead of five months,” he said, “they’d be more free to get the help they need. … We’ve already gone through the tough parts of transitioning into college, and we can help our students navigate the education system and get the most out of the benefits they earned.

For more information visit www.greenvilleseedatecu.org.

 

-by Jules Norwood

ECU researcher will use NEH grant to work with student veterans

An East Carolina University faculty member has received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of almost $65,000 to work with student veterans over a two-year period.

Dr. Anna Froula, associate professor of film studies, designed a two-week Soldier to Scholar bridge program to bring together war scholars and student veterans who will begin their studies at ECU this fall.

Froula’s team includes fellow English department faculty members Dr. Andrea Kitta, associate professor of multicultural and transnational literature, and Zack Perkinson, U.S. Army veteran and teaching instructor, as well as Nicole Jablonski, assistant director of ECU’s Student Veteran Services, and Dr. Jonathan Vincent, assistant professor of English at Towson University.

As part of the program starting Aug. 7, Froula’s team will cultivate discussions about war experience through the study of humanities texts with 15 new student veterans. Participants will study works including World War I poetry and novels, films from World War II and the Iraq war and the soundtrack from “Hamilton: The Musical.” Topics will include memory and memorialization, gender and war, homecomings, military folklore and veterans’ narratives, and representations of veterans in popular culture. An orientation component will focus on the transition from military culture to university culture and prepare participants for academic success.

“This class will provide incoming student veterans with an amazing opportunity to start their education at ECU in a supportive environment surrounded by their peers,” Jablonski said. “But, more importantly, it provides time to unpack their military experience in an accessible and supportive manner.”

Out of 73 proposals to the NEH’s Dialogues on the Experience of War program, 15 were funded including a second award of almost $98,000 to ECU that Froula worked on this July in Saipan with project director Dr. Jennifer McKinnon, associate professor of history in the maritime studies program, and Dr. Anne Ticknor, associate professor of literacy studies in the College of Education. Both proposals, part of the NEH’s Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War initiative, raise questions about civilian obligations to service personnel, the necessity of understanding veteran experiences, and wars and their aftermaths. The initiative stresses the importance of the humanities in working through the experience of war.

Froula’s research encompasses veterans’ stories and their representations in popular culture. Most recently, she co-edited a volume on television series about war. She is the granddaughter of a World War II veteran, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, and the cousin of an Iraq War veteran. Since 2015, she has served as the faculty sponsor of ECU’s chapter of the Student Veterans of America—the Pirate Veterans Organization.

“As a citizen, I am concerned about how few public conversations we have about our veterans, the wars in which they fight and our responsibilities to them when they return,” Froula said. “I am excited to develop this program and to help facilitate a supportive learning cohort that will support each other and fellow veterans throughout their time at ECU.”

“With her research background in the representations of war service, trauma and returning veterans in popular culture, and her record of service with veterans here at ECU, Dr. Froula is the ideal facilitator for this important new program,” said Dr. Marianne Montgomery, chair of the ECU English department. “I am thrilled that the NEH recognizes the central role of the humanities in helping veterans unpack the experience of war, and I look forward to welcoming the first Soldier to Scholar cohort in August.”

NEH reviewers of Froula’s proposal remarked on the potentially profound impact for participants and the suitability of ECU as a hosting university, given its ongoing support of student veterans through its Student Veterans Services office. Since launching the Standing Together initiative in 2014, the NEH has awarded more than $7.7 million for humanities projects that serve veterans and help them share their experiences.

For more information about the ECU English department, visit http://www.ecu.edu/english/.

For more information about Student Veterans Services, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-studentaffairs/studenttransitions/studentveterans/.

 

Contact: Dr. Anna Froula, 252-328-6663, FROULAA@ecu.edu

Task Force Dagger and ECU team up to explore underwater WWII sites

Task Force Dagger, a nonprofit organization that supports all U.S. Special Operations Command service members and their families, is joining forces with the East Carolina University Department of History’s maritime studies program to explore and research WWII underwater archaeological sites in the western Pacific.

The maritime studies program has several faculty and staff that work on military-related and WWII archaeological sites all over the world.

Dr. Jennifer McKinnon investigates a Kawanishi H8K Japanese seaplane. (Photo by Jon Carpenter)

Dr. Jennifer McKinnon investigates a Kawanishi H8K Japanese seaplane. (Photo by Jon Carpenter)

Associate professor Dr. Jennifer McKinnon has been working on military sites in the Pacific for nearly 10 years. In partnership with Ships of Exploration and Discovery and the local community of Saipan, McKinnon developed the WWII Maritime Heritage Trail: Battle of Saipan in 2009. The heritage trail consists of nine underwater U.S. and Japanese sites in Saipan’s crystal-clear, tropical lagoons. The sites include amphibious vehicles such as landing vehicles and tanks, aircraft, and shipwrecks, all lost in the 1944 Battle of Saipan.

McKinnon said that the partnership with Task Force Dagger is a boon for continuing to research these sites. “Active military and veterans have an incredible firsthand knowledge of warfare, tactics and military material,” she said. “Their knowledge and experience has the potential to contribute so much to the research we are conducting in the Pacific. It really is a reciprocal relationship.”

Charles “Keith” David, managing director of Task Force Dagger and retired U.S. Army Special Forces, said the organization is looking forward to solidifying the collaboration through a memorandum of agreement and seeking grant funding for the project.

The Task Force Dagger Foundation will join McKinnon and the maritime studies program next summer in a special recreational therapy adaptive event that trains special operations command service members in scuba diving and underwater archaeology. The team will then travel to Saipan to continue locating and recording WWII underwater archaeological sites.

For more information about Task Force Dagger visit https://www.taskforcedagger.org/. For more information about the WWII Maritime Heritage Trail visit http://www.pacificmaritimeheritagetrail.com/.

 

Contact: Dr. Jennifer McKinnon, mckinnonje@ecu.edu, 252-328-6788

Military Women’s Health Symposium is August 23

Health care providers across eastern North Carolina will convene in Greenville for the new Military Women’s Health Symposium on August 23. Registration is now open for the event, which is meant to support the well-being of women in the military and women veterans by updating the providers who care for them.

Women comprise about 15 percent of the U.S. armed forces. In 2016, there were more than 2 million female veterans across the nation from all branches of military service, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

As more women join the military in ever-expanding roles, it’s important for providers to understand the health risks associated with service for women, according to event organizer Karen Goble, assistant director of continuing medical, dental and pharmacy education at Eastern AHEC.

“We want to recognize the role of women who serve and honor their sacrifice,” Goble said.

At the event, physicians and other advanced practitioners from the community, military bases and veterans’ administration will discuss the latest screening methods and treatments for issues common to women in the military and women veterans. These include orthopedic problems, pelvic pain and infections, depression, headaches and more.

“Women in the military are strong and resilient, but they face certain stressors that providers need to understand for optimal care,” Goble said.

For example, women in the military carrying heavy packs can experience stress fractures that result in chronic pelvic pain. “Women are capable of carrying the same equipment as men, but conditioning can be important in prevention,” Goble said.

The event is hosted by East Carolina University, Greenville VA Health Care Center, Eastern Area Health Education Center and Duke Area Health Education Center.

The conference will be held at The Education Center at Eastern AHEC, located at 2600 W. Arlington Blvd., at the corner of Arlington and W. 5th St. Space is limited so advance registration is required. Registration fees and other details are available online at easternahec.net. Those interested in attending this conference can call 252-744-5208 for more information.

 

-by Jackie Drake, Eastern AHEC

Wounded Warriors recharge relationships at ECU

Tuesday was Meranda and Rusty Baggett’s 19th wedding anniversary. They spent it working on their relationship while helping other military members, veterans and their spouses work on theirs.

East Carolina University’s Campus Recreation and Wellness partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to host a Project Odyssey Retreat at the Belk Building rope course. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

East Carolina University’s Campus Recreation and Wellness partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to host a Project Odyssey Retreat at the Belk Building rope course. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

The Baggetts were one of 14 couples in which one or both spouses were active duty or retired servicemembers and one was dealing with a traumatic brain injury, combat stress or a post-traumatic stress disorder. They were at East Carolina University as part of a Wounded Warriors Project Odyssey Retreat to help military couples learn to rebuild trust in their relationships affected by combat stresses and experiences.

ECU provided a low ropes course at the Blount Complex on Tuesday and planned a canoe trip along the Tar River for Wednesday.

Jenna Potter, combat stress recovery specialist for Project Odyssey and a 2015 recreation therapy graduate of ECU, contacted university staff members last fall about hosting a Wounded Warrior event. After talking, they decided it was a natural fit.

The group makes it way through a spider web in a cave while maintaining group contact.

The group makes it way through a spider web in a cave while maintaining group contact.

“It just kind of clicked in my head,” said Potter, whose parents were in the Air Force. “I knew Pirate Nation is a strong community and has so much love no matter what. Within weeks, we had a great relationship going.”

“It was really a no-brainer to offer the collaboration,” said Adrienne Fike, assistant director for adventure leadership with Campus Recreation and Wellness, whose husband was wounded while on duty with the Marine Corps. “Wounded Warrior is a project that was looking for something really specific. The fact we got to be that is really great.”

Rusty Baggett was a master sergeant and medical operations specialist in the 18th Airborne Corps. After serving for 16 years from Hawaii to Iraq to Afghanistan, it was a routine training flight out of Fort Bragg in November 2010 – a month before he was to ship out for another mission to Iraq –that ended his military career.

People balance on a wooden surface.

People balance on a wooden surface.

He remembered being in the plane. The next thing he remembered was being in a hospital a month later. In between, he jumped from the plane, and experts pieced together that apparently a gust of wind caused his parachute to collapse about 100 feet from the ground. He crashed, broke his pelvis and had two brain bleeds. Sixteen of the 30 jumpers were injured during the exercise.

Meranda Baggett recalled rushing to the hospital after getting the call that he was critically injured.

“When I got there, what broke my heart the most was he didn’t know who I was,” she said. “That broke my heart.”

Months later, something else would bother her husband.

“I was still bitter that I wasn’t going to Iraq for the second time,” he said. “That was my job. That’s what I did.”

Meranda Baggett lifts a rope high to keep tension on it.

Meranda Baggett lifts a rope high to keep tension on it.

Seven years later, he still has short-term memory loss. Thus, they plan each day with an online calendar, right down to what they’re having for each meal. And he says the civilian world lacks the camaraderie and organization of the military.

“I had to find out where I fit in,” he said.

The couple, who met when they were 14 and have an 18-year-old daughter, found that together with the Wounded Warrior Project. After participating in a few odysseys, they are now peer mentors – helping other active and retired servicemembers. The camaraderie is back.

“We have the same pains and things we can work through, and we can do it together and learn from each other,” said Rusty Baggett, who graduated in May from Methodist College with a degree in health services administration.

This week’s event was the first Project Odyssey at ECU. Another one is scheduled for July, and more are tentatively planned for next year.

 

 

-by Doug Boyd, University Communication

ECU faculty receive national funding to work with veterans and their families

Three East Carolina University faculty members have been awarded almost $98,000 in grant funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work with veterans and their families.

Dr. Jennifer McKinnon, associate professor of history in the Maritime Studies Program and project director, Dr. Anna Foula, associate professor of film studies in the Department of English, and Dr. Anne Ticknor, associate professor of literacy studies in the College of Education, comprise the interdisciplinary research team.

The faculty members will work with Saipanese veterans of contemporary wars, surviving civilian participants of World War II and families of military service personnel to learn more about war’s universal impact on humanity.

McKinnon has collaborated with the Saipan community for nearly 10 years on heritage sites on land and under water. Froula has published widely on the representations of war and service personnel in popular culture as well as advises student veterans at ECU. Ticknor, a literacy educator for 20 years, researches identities.

Two ECU proposals were among 15 projects to receive funding through the NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War grant program. Part of NEH’s Standing Together initiative, the grants provide opportunities for veterans, through the study and discussion of important humanities sources, to think more deeply about issues raised by war and military service.

The funding will allow ECU faculty to travel to Saipan for two weeks in July to prepare community members with interest in humanities, history, and veteran affairs to become discussion leaders.

The researchers will lead discussion groups with local, primarily Chamorro and Carolinian, veterans to develop an understanding of war as a shared human experience and the associated cultural heritage of war on Saipan. Discussion will center on the Spanish-Chamorro Wars of the 17th century and the World War II Battle of Saipan as bookends to the history of resistance and aggressions in the islands. These wars were chosen because they represent the complexities of all of the participants of war, combatant and non-combatant, in a colonial and post-colonial context.

Participants will gain an understanding of the meaning of war from different perspectives through the exploration of terrestrial and underwater cultural heritage, film, history, memoirs, children’s historical fiction, poetry, paintings and graphic novels.

“Underwater cultural heritage, just one of many humanities sources used in this project, is not typically thought of as an entry or gateway into discussing large societal issues like identity, conflict or even the potential for healing,” McKinnon said. “This is why I’m so excited to explore this possibility with my colleagues and the community.”

McKinnon, Froula and Ticknor anticipate that the personal interactions with the physical remains of heritage sites as well as humanities texts and films will provide a new or renewed sense of cultural value for both the veterans’ experiences and the local conflict heritage.

NEH panel reviewers commented that the project was distinct from other proposals with significant potential for intergenerational impact. Since launching the initiative in 2014, the NEH has awarded more than $7.7 million for humanities projects that serve veterans or chronicle their experiences.

For more information about maritime studies at ECU, visit http://www.ecu.edu/history/.

For more information about the English department, visit http://www.ecu.edu/english/.

For more information about literacy studies, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-educ/LEHE/read/literacy_home.cfm.

 

 

-by Crystal Baity 

Patriot Run promises a sloppy, fun time

Cadets from East Carolina University’s Army ROTC Pirate Battalion will host the ninth annual Patriot Run at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 1 on the west research campus.

The run through lots of mud and obstacles will benefit Homes for Our Troops and Eagle Rock Camp, which reconnects servicemen and women with their families and communities after deployments or long periods away.

(contributed photo)

(contributed photo)

“We want to be a part of our community and strive to do our best to support it,” said Cadet Eric Sengmany, one of the organizers of the 5k mud run. “The Patriot Run provides individuals with a fun and challenging event, but also gives them an awareness of veterans and veteran organizations in our community.”

The research campus is at 1157 VOA Site C Road west of Greenville. The first heat will begin at 9 a.m. The race is for individuals or teams. There will also be a 1-mile fun run. Preregistration is available at http://patriotrun.com or at the site the morning of the race. The first 200 registered runners will receive a T-shirt, and all racers will get a finishers coin.

“Putting together this race is a good representation of how important our veterans and service members are to us. It is an honor to be a part of a program that strives to recognize those who have served before us and that prepares us to be the best leaders for our soldiers,” Sengmany said.

More information about ECU’s Army ROTC program is at http://www.ecu.edu/arotc.

 

-by Rich Klindworth

Writing workshop highlights veterans’ stories

Former Marine Phil Klay. (contributed photo)

Former Marine Phil Klay. (contributed photo)

Former Marine Phil Klay will be at East Carolina University March 16-17 to participate in the University-sponsored Veterans Writing Workshop, designed to coach and mentor veterans and military-connected writers to record their stories of service.

Klay joined the Marines because we were a nation at war, he says. He wrote short stories about his war, and how that war followed him home, so the American people could better understand the consequences of America’s reactions to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There were stories he had to tell — individual stories about men and women that weren’t being told on the nightly news.

Now he’s returning to eastern North Carolina to help other veterans tell their own stories.

Klay will lead a writing workshop March 16 and will be joined by fellow authors Ron Capps, Monica Haller and Dr. Fredrick Foote at Hendrix Theater that evening from 7-9 p.m. for readings and a question-and-answer session, which is open to the public and is an ECU Passport Event.

Author Ron Capps. (contributed photo)

Author Ron Capps. (contributed photo)

“I think the craft of writing is the best way we have of dealing with the most vital, painful and beautiful aspects of life. Hopefully, I’ll have something useful to say to writers who are trying to figure out how to approach subjects that are important to them,” Klay said. “Certainly, I’ve found conversations with veteran writers to be hugely important in helping me to formulate my thoughts.”

Klay won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction for “Redeployment,” a collection of short stories about the war he witnessed in Iraq during a 2007 troop surge intended push back against a raging insurgency that threatened Iraq’s future.

“It’s such an odd space to be in, transferring being at war in Iraq and at peace the States, between one’s primary sense of oneself as a Marine and as a husband, as a soldier and a citizen,” Klay said. He hopes that his work, and the writing produced by the Veterans Writing Workshop, will extend a bridge to those who didn’t share the experiences of combat.

Klay continues to be affected by his time in Iraq and the continuing legacy of a war well into its second decade. In February 2017, the New York Times published an opinion piece (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/opinion/sunday/what-were-fighting-for.html) that commended the moral courage of individual American fighting men and women.

“I think I’ve continued to develop a respect for the depth and complexity of veteran’s experiences. I’ve also thought more about the role of American citizens more broadly, whether veteran or not, and the things that unify us as a country,” Klay said.

Veterans and military-connected writers interested in participating in the Veterans Writing workshop can visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/veteranswritingworkshop/registration.cfm to register.

 

 

-by Benjamin Abel, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

College of Nursing graduate named Air Force ROTC Distinguished Graduate

Jonathan Jeffries, a recent graduate of East Carolina University’s College of Nursing, was named a Distinguished Graduate at his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December.

The honor is given to the top 10 percent of the Air Force ROTC graduating class nationwide, which this year included 1,815 graduates from 144 detachments. The award is predicated on success and leadership in academics, ROTC and in the community.

Jonathan Jeffries, right, receives a sabre in recognition of being named a Distinguished Graduate during his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December. (Contributed photo)

Jonathan Jeffries, right, receives a sabre in recognition of being named a Distinguished Graduate during his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December. (Contributed photo)

“I think he’s the whole person concept as far as what we would need as a leader,” said Lt. Col. Roxane Engelbrecht, Jeffries’ commanding officer who nominated him for the award. “He is physically fit and he excels academically — those are the first two things. The third is leadership quality and his ability to lead groups of people, not only in the Air Force and Air Force ROTC, but his demonstrated leadership at the university is somewhat unparalleled by most cadets.”

Jeffries was the College of Nursing’s fall 2016 senior class president. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing in December with a 3.89 GPA. He helped to organize a relief effort to aid Greenville flood victims following Hurricane Matthew in the fall of 2016. He also spearheaded his class’s efforts to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society during the 2016 Walk MS fundraiser.

Engelbrecht has nominated five cadets for the award since she came to ECU in 2014. Of those, Jeffries is one of four to have been selected as a recipient.

“It was a huge shock and a huge honor,” Jeffries said of the award, which came in the form of a sabre Engelbrecht presented him at the ceremony. “I’m not one to care about being recognized, but when it does happen it’s definitely nice to see all the effort and all the hard work you’ve put in – throughout your time either with ROTC or at the College of Nursing – be recognized. It was a surreal moment. It was probably one of the best days of my life so far.”

Prior to attending ECU, Jeffries served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three and a half years, but separated from that branch after being injured in pre-deployment training.

Jeffries plans to make a career as an Air Force nurse. He will go to Arizona in February for the Air Force’s 10-week nursing training before being stationed at Eglin Air Force base in Florida.

 

-by Natalie Sayewich

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