For one veteran, distance learning outlasts post-war complications

By Anthony Cave, News21

The “compact” feeling of a classroom can be overwhelming for students who are military veterans.

Post-9/11 veteran Stephen Michael DeMoss, 27, said that he “burned out” during the fall 2012 semester at Florida International University. He struggled with Post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism.

“I had to be hospitalized, I almost had to drop my classes,” said DeMoss, who served in Iraq in 2005-2006.

The classroom setting troubled DeMoss so much he took evening classes, which met when the campus was less crowded.

“A lot of people can sometimes be a little stressful, you don’t get there early enough and you have to squeeze between a lot of people,” said DeMoss, an international relations major.

Despite a flurry of emails and invitations from the FIU veterans group, DeMoss said he did not seek help. However, change came in the form of an internship.

In spring 2013, he moved to California for a semester to join his wife, who was an intern with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

That move meant that DeMoss had to take all his classes virtually. He improved academically.

“I guess I had the mindset of being very independent. Online is a lot easier,” DeMoss said.

DeMoss still has a few classes that he must take on campus in Miami before he graduates, but a government job is already in his sights.  DeMoss has an internship scheduled this summer with the U.S. Department of the Treasury in West Virginia.

He hopes to work for the U.S. Department of State some day, but Treasury has a plan too.

“This internship with the Treasury Department; they train me up,” DeMoss said. “Once I graduate, I have a job, if I want it.”

Florida State University’s art therapy workshops calm veterans

By Anthony Cave, News21

Rather than talking to veterans about post-war complications such as anxiety and depression, they learn art as a coping mechanism at Florida State University.

The Student Veterans Center and Art Therapy Program at FSU host workshops for student veterans on campus.

“It’s meaningful to them; the creative process is healing in itself,” said Meredith McMackin, an academic adviser in the FSU College of Human Sciences.

McMackin, whose son was killed in Iraq, has worked with FSU veterans since 2008. A doctoral student in art therapy, McMackin helps with the workshops.

Veterans feel isolated on campus because of their experiences and age, she said.

“They’ve seen a lot of things that young, 18-, 19-, 20-year-old college students can’t fathom,” McMackin said.

Veterans in workshops produce everything from paintings to printmaking. The finished products from the October 2012 workshop were displayed in the FSU main library.

“It brings out something from within,” she said.

Post-9/11 veteran Rachel Mims, 26, is an art therapy master’s degree student at FSU. The Arlington, Texas, native served in the Army from 2001 to 2012, including a deployment to Germany. She initially was attracted to FSU because of its growing veterans population, Mims said. She saw it as an opportunity to help. However, she did not attend veteran events on campus at first.

“I was mentally discharged; I was done with the military,” Mims said.

One meeting, however, changed her outlook.

“I have relied on the veterans group for support, so much support,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing that has helped me out, is school.”

Mims, who also helps with the art therapy workshops, said that her veteran experiences are part of her life “forever now.” And, the emotions still run high, but in a different way.

“My field is a caring field, [art therapists] have that personality, they want to help others,” Mims said.