MSPP STUDENT PROFILE
MY EXPERIENCE & THE MILITARY
I served in the army for three years, from 2003 to 2006. I was in a combat unit, and although I didn’t go to Iraq, I had the privilege of meeting soldiers who eventually became like family. I realized that some of them had issues involving things that they had seen in combat that really affected them, and in turn, affected the unit. When it came time for me to re-enlist, I decided that instead, I would enter the reserves and pursue psychology graduate education with the goal of returning to the military full time to serve one day as a military psychologist.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma in the military about seeking help. You’re supposed to be able to handle it, but obviously not everybody can. There is a need, and the military is starting to focus more on it, by getting more training on suicide prevention, PTSD and other psychological issues. For some soldiers, the only real pain they feel is psychological. There is no bodily injury. If you can heal that pain by working with someone who understands the environment you’ve been in and may even have experienced the same things, the outcome should be more successful. It benefits the military to keep people in after they have been professionally trained to address the mental health issues specific to this population. For me, it is a way to give back and meet a need.
There are ways that people view the military, for better or worse. Some stereotypes are true, some are not so true. The military is an organization just like any other. There are stereotypes for lawyers and doctors but I think most people know a lawyer, have worked with one or have gone to see a doctor or psychologist. How many people have been directly involved with a soldier? So all they have is the stereotypical image of a soldier without anything to really base it off of. The military is not for everyone, but I thrived in it, and I found out a lot about myself in this environment. Everything in the military is like a chess game. It’s all a matter of doing the right thing, being in the right place and thinking ahead to your next move.
A COMMON BOND
The military has its own culture and creates an immediate camaraderie. It’s like an understanding, even though I don’t know anything about you, anything about where you came from, I know what you did in basic training. I know how many push-ups you had to do because I did them too. In the military there is a saying they embed into your head. Everyone is green. They say that because we all wear the same green uniform. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your ethnicity, where you came from. None of that matters. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, how poor you are, we are all green.
THE MSPP EXPERIENCE
I love MSPP. I love everything about the Boston area. I am learning so much about other people, but what has really surprised me is what I am learning about myself. I can see now how I fit in a psychology role as opposed to a military student role. The internships are really bringing that out in me, too. It’s one thing to sit in class and learn a theoretical model, but to actually put it into practice by finding my own way is invaluable.
The biggest fear I had coming to Boston and to MSPP was that I was going to be the only vet, the only soldier. As it turned out, there are several of us and now we are working on building awareness about our “culture.” It was nice to find out that there were others.