University Provides Care for Wounded Warriors
By Jamie Findlater
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2008 Wounded servicemembers are finding an unlikely resource for care at Arkansas State University in a new program officials there hope will catch on at other college campuses.
Susan Tonymon, director of the Beck Pride Center at the university’s Jonesboro campus, described the program in an “ASY Live” interview on BlogTalkRadio.com.
The university opened the center in October 2007 as a supplement to Veterans Affairs programs, Tonymon said. The campus is an ideal place to reach out to wounded troops, she said.
“Arkansas State University is a very military-friendly campus,” Tonymon said. With a National Guard armory on campus, an ROTC program and the development of a student veterans group, the campus “provides a service for them to connect with others in this area for social interaction and cohesiveness.”
The center provides services such as physical and occupational therapy, mental health counseling and social services to combat-injured servicemembers, veterans and their families. It was funded for 50 participants and now has 62, Tonymon said.
“We don’t want to duplicate a service,” Tonymon said. “Many of our servicemembers have heard about the vet centers, but sometimes they are too far away and they will choose to come to a center on our campus.”
Participants often go to Arkansas State for services not offered at VA centers near them, Tonymon said. And, with mental health providers trained to help combat veterans, they find the care specific to their needs.
Most participants come from outside the Jonesboro area, some from as far away as California and Washington state, to take advantage of the program’s unique opportunities, Tonymon said.
Program officials recently helped a wounded warrior relocate to Jonesboro from Missouri, where he faced a 70-mile commute to the nearest VA center. The center provided him with temporary housing and got him financial resources because he had not yet been discharged from the military, Tonymon said.
“We have an area on campus where military servicemembers can live in a community with day care and get physical therapy right here on campus,” she said.
Tonymon said she is interested in helping other campuses start their own programs.
“Universities like Arkansas State are in a unique position to help, mainly because we can centralize many of the services that the wounded servicemember may need for recovery,” she said. “The university itself provides a safe therapeutic and healing environment.”
(Jamie Findlater works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)