By Christine Csaky
Since October of 2001, over two million American service men and women have been deployed to the Middle East. One of those soldiers is Kean business student, Ismail Bangura.
According to Marsha McCarthy of Kean Media Relations, there are 222 currently enrolled students who are also United States Veterans.
Bangura was deployed to Iraq for ten months when he was 22 years old. During that period, he was an Army Corrections Officer in a facility in Iraq. Prior to his deployment, Bangura served as a clerk in human resources.
As a soldier Bangura says that he grew as a person and learned to adapt anywhere. Since his deployment he has learned to value more basic things and peaceful times in his life.
“Appreciate the little things, the simple things and take life more seriously,” Bangura said.
Since returning home, Bangura has experienced symptoms of PTSD, including difficulty concentrating and finding a balance in his life. Bangura also found that it was difficult to adapt back to society at home in New Jersey, as people cannot relate to what he and his fellow soldiers had experienced during deployment.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 11 to 20% of veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. PTSD can occur any time after a person experiences a trauma.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Re-living the event or re-experiencing symptoms of the event.
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal), which includes sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating and being easily startled.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website (www.va.gov) help is available for Veterans suffering from PTSD symptoms by contacting the Veterans Crisis Line at: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 (text 838255) or by calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
On campus, the Military and Veterans Club offers unity and support for student veterans. Clara Garcia, a Kean Communication student and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, has served as the Club President since October.
The club is a non-profit organization and has organized many fundraisers, including bake sales and a paintball event.
The club had also been tasked with organizing Kean’s Veterans Day festivities on November 11, 2014, to honor all U.S. Veterans. The tentative program schedule includes performances of Amazing Grace, God Bless America and The Star Spangled Banner; the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by the Kean Day Care students; and presentations by Clara Garcia; Kean University President Dawood Farahi; and Kean Vice-President Philip Connelly. Workshops for veterans and a luncheon are also planned events.
Together Kean and the Military and Veterans Club are working together to ease the transition from military to college. One way that Garcia would like to see the club transition new veterans is by implementing a “buddy system,” similar to the system that soldiers use in a conflict situation.
“One issue we need to deal with is that we can be called back anytime,” Garcia said.
The idea of returning to a conflict is not something that most students are forced to deal with, making a support system within the Military and Veterans Club all the more important.
The club meets every other Thursday at 3:15 pm, with its next meeting on November 13, 2014, in University Center Room 315B. It is open to all students.
Information regarding the Military and Veterans Club can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MilitaryAndVeteransClubAtKeanUniversity or at Cougar Link
or Kean Exchange