WARRENSBURG — The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg Veterans Summit was an opportunity for veterans and enlisted military personnel to gain a wealth of knowledge Friday during two panel discussions and through various information booths inside the Elliott Student Union.
“It’s amazing, I’m so thrilled with the folks who are here today,” UCM Coordinator of Military and Veterans Services Delilah R. Nichols said. “To have Emma (Toops) here is wonderful and to have members of the community here like the Combat Motorcycle Association and the vendors.
“This truly represents a place where folks can come together, find a support system and the resources they need to conquer, overcome and move forward in a positive manner,” she added. “Just as Gregg Ganschaw spoke about, post traumatic stress growth (PTSG). Today is a new day. I had not heard of that term, and I love it. We don’t have to focus on the negative, the mindset has to change to positive.”
“We are all familiar with PTSD,” panelist Gregg Ganschaw, founder and CEO of The Path Finding Group, said during the event. “There’s another reference point close to that called PTSG. How many of you know what that is? PTSG is post traumatic stress growth, where you take that event … and you use it to turn yourself in a positive direction. As difficult as that is, that’s when real change happens.”
Retired U.S. Army Maj. Emma Toops owns Toops Consulting. She attended the event because of her concern of how difficult it is for veterans to reintegrate and to find a job in the private sector.
“I’m here because of the work that I do,” she said. “It’s specifically focused on veteran employment and entrepreneurship. I work with both sides of that culture gap.”
She added that it’s often difficult for the private employer to understand where the veteran is coming from and the same is true for the veteran who is more familiar with military structure.
“People who want to hire veterans don’t know where to find them, don’t know how to talk to them, and don’t know how to retain them once they have them,” she said. “Also on the veterans side, because of the culture gap, they don’t necessarily say the right things or maybe they are still behaving in a way that isn’t understood. That whole reintegration piece, where they have to work it out … I prepare them.
“In the private sector there’s a huge gap as far as understanding the (military) jargon,” she added.
UCM Geology Instructor Gary Krizanich, a U.S. Army veteran from the Vietnam era, had concerns about how the Veterans Administration handles medical care for veterans.
“I’ve never accessed the VA services,” he said. “But, we have so many in need right now, and if there are barriers in the way of them getting the services that are essential to them, I want to know who’s looking after that. Who’s making sure those barriers are moved. Can you call up Vicky Hartzler’s office and say ‘hey I’m having a problem?’”
Among the many vendors at the UCM Veterans Summit, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler had a staff member on hand with information about services.
UCM Assistant Director for Media Relations Jeff Murphy was pleased with the turnout of both presenters and participants.
“From a university standpoint we have a great group of people on campus to talk about issues related to veterans,” he said. “I think it’s a wonderful program, and we appreciate the people who are involved and those who came out to learn more. We have some very interesting folks here, like Devin Mitchell and others.”
Los Angeles photographer Devin Mitchell was one of the panelists for the event. Mitchell’s photos, the Veteran Vision Project, are on exhibit in the UCM Gallery of Art & Design.
Mitchell shared some thoughts on his project and on veteran reintegration. He said when he began the photo essay, it was never intended to actually help others. Once he started it, it took on a life of its own.
“It went viral about a year ago,” he said. “I didn’t even know what a veteran was until I took my first picture… this was a school project, and I was supposed to write a paper. It was about 20 images in that I realized what I was doing. So I continued.
“In regards to the reintegration process, I can only imagine as an artist … it’s not just a photo shoot or a picture, it’s sort of therapeutic experience for the individual,” he added. “Because, I’m indiscriminately doing this work to allow the person in the photograph to be heard, without saying anything. If you look at the project, it’s very transparent. There are people who have transitioned well. There are people who tell stories of seeing things they can’t unsee.”
Mitchell was scheduled to have a walk-through of the exhibit later in the day. The Veteran Vision Project will be on exhibit through Nov. 12.
Eleven panelists participated in this year’s UCM Veterans Summit, including USMC Corp. Todd A. Nicely, of Lake Ozark, a quadruple-amputee and part of the Veteran Vision Project; Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, Missouri National Guard; Retired Maj. John Schwent, of Camp Valor Outdoors; and Yulonda Swanson-Moten, a U.S. Navy veteran and marriage and family therapist.
For more information about veterans services or programs, contact UCM Military and Veterans Services at 543-8977.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 [email protected]