Advocating for and honoring all UI veterans

Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

Let us introduce you to three UI students, unique individuals with a common bond.

Cate Hartmann served in the Persian Gulf War, becoming an administrative assistant for the deputy commanding general of transportation for southwest Asia. In this role, she would help to brief individuals such as President George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at that time.

John Mikelson

A few years after her return from the service, Hartmann was diagnosed with a service-connected condition. Going through the Veterans Administration system made her realize how ill-equipped the VA system was for female veterans. This piqued her interest in female veteran issues.

Hartmann, now a graduate student in the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Program in the UI College of Education, plans to specialize in working with female veterans and host a support group for victims of military sexual trauma (MST). She now works at the UI Veterans Center at 111 Communications Center as a counselor.

Larry Lockwood

Larry Lockwood

Bill Klima, another Iraq war veteran who also is a UI student in the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Program, is working with Hartmann to develop Operation Wrecklamation, the shredding of uniforms to make paper from the fibers. This is an outgrowth of the successful Combat Paper Project, a project that makes paper out of old uniforms.

Drew Hjelm, a UI student from Spencer, Iowa, studying economics and management information systems, is in his second term as the president of the UI Veterans Association. He served in the U.S. Army from 2002 until 2008, working in communications. He provided communications support to units in remote locations during his time in Iraq (2005) and Afghanistan (2007–08). Hjelm has worked closely with the Bijou Theater and UI Student Government to bring the film Restrepo to campus during the week of Veterans Day.

Hartmann, Klima, and Hjelm are three of the estimated 385 UI students who are veterans, spanning a diverse array of majors, ages, and different branches of the military service. They all share the common bond of having served our country. More than 40 of these student veterans were called to active duty this summer to serve in Afghanistan. In addition, there are more than 300 faculty and staff who are self-identified as veterans—including the two of us.

Veterans who are returning to pursue higher education and reenter civilian life are part of a growing trend across our nation. They bring a vast amount of experience and valuable perspectives to higher education, enriching the lives of other students and contributing to the growing diversity on our campus.

They also often face many challenges.

While they bring maturity and many life experiences to the classroom, as well as a thirst to learn and to contribute to communities, they also often bear the scars of war—both emotional and physical. Sometimes it’s a physical disability such as a lost limb or a brain injury due to an improvised explosive device (IED). But other times, it’s emotional trauma such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or military sexual trauma (MST).

In our respective roles as registrar and veterans’ advisor, we are fortunate to meet many of these student veterans and are honored to help them navigate their way through higher education and make their transitions as smooth and successful as possible. In addition, Dennis Arps, located in 1 Jessup Hall, is a veterans certifying official who helps UI student veterans with many different issues.

We also share that bond since we all served in the Army ourselves.

With Veterans Day around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to share what the University is doing to help this growing and important population. Iowa has the distinction of having one of the highest levels of military volunteerism in the nation, which means we’re likely to continue to see this population grow on campus over the next several years.

The University of Iowa has received several national honors and recognitions, including being named a military-friendly school by both GI Jobs and Military Advanced Education magazines.

The University garners these awards and honors—and continues to draw talented veterans—for several reasons. The creation of a UI Veterans Center and the University’s active student veteran association are two such factors. The organization of the first UI Statewide Veterans Conference (which will be held Tuesday, Nov. 9, at the Levitt Center for University Advancement in Iowa City) builds upon our already strong foundation.

Registration for the UI Statewide Veterans Conference ends Oct. 27! Visit fyi.uiowa.edu/10/26/vets-conference for more information.

Since 40 percent of UI veterans have a disability of some sort, the University’s numerous disability services are especially attractive. The campus hosts a hearing clinic, a great hospital affiliated with UI Health Care, and the VA Hospital, where they can receive additional treatment.

The University of Iowa offers activities and services for all veterans, whether they need help with GI Bill issues or VA medical claims, information about community veteran service organizations, or just a desire to join the Facebook group for a barbeque. We feel fortunate to be advocates for veterans in our respective roles here on the UI campus, and we hope you’ll join us this Veterans Day to honor all of our veterans, whether they are UI students, faculty or staff, alumni, or those in the community.

 

Larry Lockwood is the UI registrar and assistant provost of UI enrollment management who served in the Vietnam War. John Mikelson is veterans’ advisor with the UI Veterans Center and a former Army medic who served for 26 years in the military.