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Military Social Work MSW, Marine Corp

The University of XXXX is my first choice to earn the MSW Degree for several reasons, most of all your focus on military social work, my chosen career path, especially helping veterans with PTSD. Currently a full-time student at the University of Utah, I will be graduating with my BS in Health Promotion and Education this coming August of 2016 - with an emphasis on Emergency Medical Services and Wilderness First Response. I have a cumulative GPA of 3.8 and have been on the Dean’s List every semester.

I spent 8 years in the United States Marine Corps, 3 in the reserves and 5 active, assuming many leadership roles, serving as a mentor and role model, traveling the world, risking my life, and coming close to death myself on several occasions. I have extensive experience working as an Emergency Room Technician and National Ski Patrol Outdoor Emergency Care First Responder, in addition to my military experience and later working in Presidential Security, fulfilling leadership roles in the protection of the President of the United States, in the White House and abroad. I was fortunate to help mold and influence many young Marines, proving my ability as an adaptive leader and someone who I would like to think has with an innate capacity for caring and compassion

From December of 2010 through July of 2012, I served as a Supervisor of Presidential Security and Support for the White House in Washington D.C., coordinating work assignments, evaluating performance, and mentoring teams assigned to a broad range of activities involved in the protection of the President of the United States not only in the White House but during travel abroad as well, coordinating plans of action with the White House Military Office.

While working in Presidential Security, I was not fully aware that I suffered from PTSD. That position is so sensitive that I did not see it as the right time for me to explore my own mental health challenges. Since that position ended in July of 2012, however, and I have been a full time student, I have had the opportunity to do some healing, to explore my own condition; and, for the most part, to overcome it. As a result of the security clearance that I held until only recently, I am legally prohibited from disclosing information about my deployments and activities outside of the United States; but I did visit and spend time in combat zones on several occasions throughout the course of my period of active duty with the United States Marine Corp.

My original intention when I choose my undergraduate major was to become a Physician Assistant. My goal has changed, however, largely as result of my own successful sojourn in learning how to deal effectively with my own PTSD. Now, I want to dedicate myself to a lifetime of healing, helping returning veterans to cope with their experiences and the all-too-frequently difficult challenges of reinsertion into civilian society. I want to help minimize the damage to their families as well.

At the center of my world stands the prevention of veteran suicide. Once I earn the MSW from UXX, I will be well positioned in light of my previous experience to assume leadership roles in this great struggle. Nothing seems worse to me than the situation that we find ourselves in today, with many more veterans taking their own life than those falling in combat. Something must be done and, as a soldier, I stand up and volunteer for active duty again, this time preventing suicides. This will be the true battle of my life, a war in which I plan to engage for the next half century or so.

I am an individual who has taken an interest in and dealt successfully with mental health issues throughout the course of my entire lifetime friends, family and myself, as well as my colleagues in the military. I count myself fortunate to know exactly how it feels and how difficult it can be to suffer from mental illness. Whether it's a family member, a colleague, friend or oneself, I have learned first-hand and up close the barriers to and difficulties associate with seeking help, navigating complex social, structural, and organizational systems that often prevent people who need help from finding it.

When I reached out to the VA, I was quickly reminded of the hurry up and wait mentality that I saw so much of in the military. I felt like once again I was a number not a person. I was forced to jump through endless hoops and when I finally got somewhere, I was placed in group counseling that was more of a gripe session than therapy. The treatment I received at the VA was without a doubt worse than I could have possibly imagined prior to seeking help. The "therapists" seemed uninterested, distracted, even inconvenienced by what they were doing. 

As a social worker, I hope to address the often overlooked and all-too-frequently stigmatized mental health issues that plague our veterans, who come from all ethnic groups and walks of life. As a sufferer of PTSD, it took me years of getting prescribed medication after medication, all of little-to-no benefit; all while suffering with the many very unpleasant side effects. In desperation, I decided to seek help from a counselor. This decision was the pivotal turning point in my life and the reason why I am so dedicated to becoming a social work professional.

The individual was a LCSW, and, after only a couple of sessions, I began to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel--something I was afraid I would never see again. Instead of prescribing medications to mask my symptoms, my counselor helped me to understand the roots of my problems. She taught me skills and helped me recognize and accept my issues that I had until then refused to believe were my own. During my time with this LCSW, I began to appreciate more and more the extremely critical role that she played. I began thinking more and more about how important this was not only for me but for my colleagues in the military and veterans in particular, who I knew were continuing to suffer. I pondered this with such frequency that I soon made the decision to pursue a career in social work myself.

The more I learn about mental illness and how it is or has been dealt with, the more I become convinced that we live in an era of over-utilization of medication – psychotropic medication in particular – which I tend to see as more of a band aid than a solution since medication fails to address the root cause of many problems. In addition to this issue, I also look forward to an exhaustive exposure to the study of how mental health, and seeking help for mental health challenges, have been stigmatized to the point that many, like myself, simply refused to recognize the problem, or put off asking for help, continuing to suffer in the silence of anonymity, which can be truly frightening, often leading to suicide.

I want to save lives and help turn nightmares into livable realities. Every day when I look at myself in the mirror I want to see myself smiling about the difference I have made in the lives of veterans returning home and rebuilding their lives, in the lives of their families, especially their children.

In fact, I have had a very keen interest in mental health policy in the United States for some time, much of this having to do with the fact that my brother is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. Since his struggle began, I have suffered with him the bureaucratic red tape. Instead of receiving the help he needs, he is generally seen as an outcast and burden to society. Mental health problems plague so many in our country, and gaining the skills to help identify and treat these problems has become my central goal in life, in honor of my country, my comrades in arms, and my brother.

I have studied Health Promotion and Education with an emphasis in Emergency Medical Services and Wilderness Remote Rescue as an undergraduate student because I intended to study medicine and become a Physician Assistant. I believed this path would allow me to do what I love the most, helping those in need. As time passed, however, and I have gained increasing knowledge and experience of medicine, I have come to the realization that medicine is not the way that I want to devote my life to helping my fellowman. For my part, I want to address the underlying issues that give rise to mental health issues, particularly PTSD.

I am sensitive to the fact that I am a white man who wants to provide focused and individual attention to all of our veterans, with a special focus on minority groups, Latinos in particular. My Spanish is improving rapidly and I use it at every opportunity. I see this as immensely important and look forward in the future to providing bilingual therapy to our Latino soldiers who are most comfortable speaking Spanish.

Among a broad variety of volunteer efforts that I have been engaged, one stands as a watershed experience that provided me with great direction, an acute sense of purpose, and great joy to be alive and to have a mission. This was my work with Project Healing Waters where I served as a Vet Mentor/Advocate, helping with the physical and emotional rehabilitation of combat wounded military personnel and vets – mainly through fly fishing activities. My focus was socialization and camaraderie within groups.

My long term objectives are to continuing to learn in order to gain the skills necessary to make as great a difference as I can. I see myself working in a clinical setting, hopefully for the VA, helping treat our service members who struggle with the effects of war, helping them to reintegrate into the civilian world. I also hope to continue to work with programs aimed at getting Vets involved and teaching them skills to help overcome the effects of PTSD.

I hope to publish in the future on the subject of PTSD. 

I thank you for considering my application to UXX.

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