Students Build Relationships with Veterans at Lebanon VA Medical Center During Class Project

LVC student Travis Hall talks with a veteran and his wife at the Lebanon VA Medical Center.

LVC students in the Multimedia Feature Writing course visited the Lebanon VA Medical Center to interview veterans and capture their stories this spring. The Lebanon VA houses approximately 76 veterans and is one of 170 VA medical centers in the nation. 

“I didn’t really have any expectations going into the VA for the first time,” Raeann Walquist '20, an English and digital communications double major, said. “I tried to keep an open mind and focus more on having a conversation with the veterans than getting a good story.”

Walquist spoke with Barry Stoner who served in the Persian Gulf Army from 1980 to 1997. Many of the students felt intimidated and had anxiety before their first visit. Problems such as PTSD and memory loss were a top concern. With the help of the VA staff, everyone was able to relax and enjoy their conversations. 

“Everyone was really friendly, and the veterans seemed excited to tell their stories,” Walquist said. “It was out of my comfort zone, but I am excited to have reached out and met some new people.”

Julie Wiker '18, an English and German double major, interviewed Tim Ansel, who served from 1968 to 1970 during the Vietnam War. Despite feeling nervous, Wiker felt like her experience was eye-opening.

“The ice started melting once Tim talked about his experiences as a locksmith and a firefighter,” Wiker said. “He had some amazingly colorful stories to tell and I enjoyed spending time with him.”

Jalen Cliatt '18, an English major, spoke with Barry Goldbach, who also served in the Vietnam War. He was pleasantly surprised at how inviting and comfortable the Lebanon VA Medical Center was.

“Without a doubt, more people should visit the VA hospital,” Cliatt said. “The people in there have stories worth being known and personalities worth being experienced.”

One student, in particular, made a new friend during the interview process. Travis Hall '19, a self-designed major focusing on business communications and marketing, was introduced to an Air Force Veteran named Glenn James Stoudt and his wife, Barbara. They quickly realized their connection through a love for sports.

“I will be going back to visit Glenn and Barbara another time before the semester is over just to see how he is doing,” Hall said. “It has become a good friendship between the three of us.

“I think there is so much we could be doing to help our veterans,” Hall said. “As intimidating as it may seem, once you break the ice, it becomes very easy to brighten their day.”

 

-- By Chelsea Moyer for LaVie