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University of Central Missouri
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Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
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veteranssummit2015

Change Not Easy, But Help Available for Veterans, Families in Transition

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Oct. 12, 2015) – Those who serve in the military and who want to transition to a different career may find change is not easy, but there are plenty of people and organizations willing to help. That is the message former combat veteran and major in the United States Army, Ron Pierce, provided to men and women who heard his keynote remarks at the Veterans Summit Friday, Oct. 9 at the University of Central Missouri.

The one-day event took place in the Elliott Student Union,  and included a Veterans Resource Fair with approximately 40 vendors who provided information on a variety of topics such as personal security, transition adjustment, mental and health care issues, domestic violence, employment, financial, and sexual assault/trauma. Several veteran-friendly employers also hosted informational tables seeking employees to fill positions.

Ron PIerce

U.S. Army Veteran Major (Ret.) Ron Pierce, senior director of the PBS Veteran Initiative, was the keynote speaker and moderator for a panel discussion during the Veterans Summit at UCM on Oct. 9.

Pierce currently serves as senior director of the PBS Veteran Initiative on the PBS Station Services team, leading the planning, coordination and implementation of PBS’ “Stories of Service” initiative in support of veterans and military family members. This includes working closely with member stations, CPB, NPR, and other public media partners, and veterans groups across the country. He opened the morning festivities with his keynote remarks, then moderated a panel discussion designed to empower individuals to help themselves and others by providing them with knowledge about a number of issues, and how to obtain assistance.. His formal remarks focused on reintegration, refocus and persistence of resilience among veterans seeking to rejoin civilian life.

“I also had to make a transition back to the civilian community when I made my choice to leave the military. That was a choice I made. I thought I was prepared for it, having gone to all the right schools, and having the right resume,” said the West Point Military Academy graduate. “But making that transition out of the military, where I spent 12 years out of the civilian community, was hard for me. Change is hard. Transition is hard.”

What he found, however, through his military training and education is that he had all the tools necessary to make a positive transition.

 “Most importantly -- and if I don’t leave you with anything else here this morning – it’s that there is help out there. You have to seek it. There are resources out there available to veterans and military family members and dependents to help with the transition. You needn’t feel any shame walking up to a friend or an organization that’s offering a hand to you to help with your transition.”

He added, the military gives people the tools to be self-reliant, but sometimes it prohibits service men and women from asking for help.

“What I’m most impressed about this morning is seeing what help is available in the community,” Pierce pointed to the Military and Veterans Success Center on campus to help military members, veterans and their families with transition, and other agencies represented at the event.

In talking about “refocus,” he said it is important for veterans and their families to know their value.

“If you have been a military spouse or military dependent, you have amazing experiences. And it is up to you to find a way to know and to sell that experience to the university or to meet a job requirement. Your experiences are very worthwhile and unique and extremely valuable to any organization that you can join.”

 Reintegration is hard. Change is hard. Don’t fool yourself, but it is not something you cannot overcome,” Pierce said. “You are equipped with all the skills that you need, your life experiences, your service – but it is imperative that you accept this transition.”

“That little bit of anxiousness you feel is normal. That little bit of anxiety, intrepedation, feare, whatever emotion that comes to you is normal, because change and transition is hard. Know that, but know that it can be overcome, and there are resources in your families, your former battle buddies, that can help you in that reintegration,” Pierce said.

Speaking about resiliency, he talked about a front line naval officer he knew who was going through a difficult transition after 10 years. He told him every day he should sit down and prepare for his day by identifying what he is going to do to make small steps forward in that transition. 

“Literally, every day he would make out a plan to achieve his small goals,” Pierce said, adding that his persistence allowed him to successfully make a transition to civilian life over an 18-month period.

He said it is necessary to make daily goals and continually assess them to make the transition.  Be persistent in setting goals for yourself, Pierce told the audience, which included a number of veterans.

“Your story is unique, valued and important.  Learn how to translate that uniqueness into attributes that employers, universities and other organizations see. Be your own best storyteller,” he said.

Pierce believes the nation is learning that “those who serve are not broken heroes, but assets that should be tapped, and need to be brought into an organization. They provide immediate value added to any organization in which they are involved.”

Individuals involved in the panel discussion Friday were Doug Meyer, director, Veteran Services Program, Missouri Veterans Commission; Yulonda Swanson-Moten, Kansas City Veterans Administration, Family Counseling Services; Seth Kastle, an Army combat veteran, professor of leadership studies at Fort Hays (Kan.) State University,  and author of the book, “Why Is Dad So Mad”; Jon Sabala, director, Veterans Services, Missouri Department of Mental Health; Col. Gary Gilmore, chaplain, State Joint Services, Missouri National Guard; Devin Mitchell, founder/photographer, Veteran Vision Project; Gregg Ganshaw, president/board chair, Return With Purpose; John Schwent, executive director, Camp Valor Outdoors; Charles Ambrose, president, UCM;  Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, Missouri National Guard, and Todd Nicely, U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

Later in the afternoon, Mitchell led a tour of his exhibit of photographs of veterans in the UCM Gallery of Art & Design. Through his photos, Mitchell shares the unique, double-sided visual stories of men and women who have served in the military.  Learn more about this photo initiative at veteranvisionproject.com.