2017 Tillman Scholar

Aaron Banas

The George Washington University
Ph.D., Psychology

“As a psychologist, I will help others recover from life’s hardships and find their way home.”

With a strong sense of responsibility and empathy for others, Aaron enlisted as Navy Corpsman. During his service, he found meaning through working with others who had lost hope. He learned that saving a life did not just mean stopping the bleeding or keeping an airway open; it also meant helping others find meaning and that they were not alone in their suffering.

After his enlistment, Aaron felt lost. Knowing that he needed change, he set out on a six-month journey into the wilderness. Through his journey, he found a way to live each day with mindfulness and appreciation and discovered that he could help others find their own path to recovery. He accomplished this by coordinating retreats for combat veterans. During the retreats, he shared the story of how Odysseus went to war then became lost finding his way home. Aaron found that Veterans returning from war may be physically home, but mentally they are still searching. The responsibility of bringing everyone home rests not only on the veteran and the mental health provider, but also on their communities. Aaron is seeking his doctoral degree in clinical psychology so that he may better understand the nature of suffering and pathways to healing.

Aaron plans to create a collaborative community in which psychotherapy is normalized, members of the community are educated about helping veterans, and transition services address the needs of returning veterans. Aaron believes that building resilience with returning veterans will equate to a more resilient and healthy community.