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SIS Professor, Students Volunteer for Veterans at Walter Reed

By Mike Unger

Jack Child served two years in Vietnam and saw firsthand the shabby treatment soldiers received when they returned home. Now, the language and foreign studies professor is doing his part to ensure that today’s warriors won’t have to endure the same indignities.

Two of his students join Child in volunteering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, giving their time so wounded veterans and their families can concentrate on the often long and arduous road to recovery. Child participates in two programs and invites others to join him.

“I’m working at a place called Fisher House,” he said. “It’s a foundation that has built about 100 facilities for families on military bases. It gives family members, mothers and wives usually, of people who are in the hospital being treated a comfortable place to stay. There are two Mexican women whose sons got to the U.S., enlisted in the Army, and were seriously wounded. I go over once a week and spend a couple hours translating and working with them.”

He also is an instructor in the Army Family Team Building program, which gives parents and spouses of soldiers a basic orientation to the Army.

Junior Robert Soos, 20, and graduate student Mary Renick, 24, have joined Child. As part of his Community Service Learning Program through AU, Soos does administrative work in the Education Services Division, which helps soldiers further their education.

“I definitely leave there every Wednesday morning thinking about how real it all is,” he said. “There are kids my age walking around with their face burned off. It’s nice to help out the people there that really are working hard to help people who need it.”

Renick has been assisting Walter Reed officials prepare to host a college fair.

“I knew very little about Walter Reed,” she said. “It’s broadened my knowledge about the services they provide for the soldiers. I really enjoy helping them because I think the soldiers that have fought in the war deserve the best that can be offered.”

All three plan to continue their service for the foreseeable future. That’s vital, said Walter Reed Installation Army Volunteers Corps program manager Darla Haines, because the facility relies on the work of about 1,000 volunteers.

“Volunteers allow the staff to have more time focusing on healing the wounded warriors here,” she said. “Young people, college, and even high school students come here, and it gives them an opportunity to see what [this] community looks like. It gives them a foundation to build on, to see other people’s plights and situations that they might not see on an everyday basis. We see the struggles the soldiers have to go through every day.”