In today’s New York Daily News, a powerful column from Stephanie Gaskill recounts a moment two years ago when a group of Marines gathered at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq to mourn their fallen peers:

As the Marines walked out of that auditorium that day, I asked the general, “How can people back home show their gratitude?” I was somehow hoping for a way to take their pain away.

Without missing a step, he turned and said, “It only takes 10 seconds to walk up to someone and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ And not just on Memorial Day.” And then he walked away and went back to work.

But given the physical and psychological issues many of our soldiers grapple with as a result of their service — read this heartbreaking piece about William Andrew Prxybylski in today’s Raleigh News & Observer — perhaps saying “thank you” just isn’t enough.

Schweitzer Fellows across the country are working year-round to address the unmet health needs of veterans in Prxybylski’s situation — and to help give stories like his a happier ending:

  • 2009-2010 Chicago Fellow Liz Appel will provide auricular acupuncture and body work to veterans and their relatives at the Alternative Medicine Project for Veterans. Her project will address returning veterans’ health care access, as well as the psychological and physical manifestations of trauma and war. Liz working on her Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.
  • 2008-2009 Baltimore Fellows Meghan Hatfield-Yanacek and Noah Isserman, students at the University of Maryland School of Law, worked with Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP), Inc. to assess mental health needs of homeless veterans.
  • 2008-2009 Boston Fellow Anoop Raman, a student at the Tufts University School of Medicine, worked with the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans (NESHV), which offers an impressive array of courses to its clients to help improve their career prospects. Anoop worked with veterans at the shelter to address concerns they had that prevented them from taking advantage of the courses.
  • Another member of Raman’s Boston cohort, Elexa Waugh-Quasebarth of Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation, worked with Chelsea Soldier’s Home to develop an unrestrictive arts program for aged veterans with neurodegenerative disease. (For more coverage of Elexa’s project, here‘s an earlier post.)
  • And finally, 2006-2007 New Hampshire/Vermont Fellows Andy Cronin and Rusty Phillips (students at Dartmouth Medical School) documented through video interviews the military service of the veterans and civilians at the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in White River Junction, VT in an effort to better understand the patient population being served. They  focused on how the veterans’ service has influenced their mental, physical, and social health, and how practitioners can use this knowledge to improve health care services for this population.

Stay tuned for updates on our Fellows’ work with veterans.