"Why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?" That's what my father asked when I told him that I had joined the U.S. Army and would be going to jump school. I was just a month from graduating from my all-girls private high school when I secretly enlisted. Within a year I had jump wings, and within two years I deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. At times, when I think back my service feels distant and surreal, but when I sit across from a student veteran in the clinic, it feels like yesterday. We share so many stories and connect about the universal aspects of military service and the challenges we face afterward.
When I began working on my PhD three years ago, I wanted to investigate the impact of TBI and other service-related conditions on memory and attention in military veteran college students. However, researching the unique needs of veterans wasn't enough—I wanted to establish resources to address some of the challenges they face when they leave service and enter college. With support from my clinical, academic, and veteran communities, I have established clinical programs, academic resources, and even research opportunities for student veterans. I can't say that all those years ago, when I decided to jump out of airplanes, I understood the impact that decision would have on my identity and my work, but I am grateful that my seemingly impulsive, teenage decision, gave me this incredible community of veterans to serve.