Pat Tillman Foundation can’t fulfill its mission to empower military veterans and their spouses without the generosity of our supporters across the country. Nationwide, over 400 Tillman Scholars are striving to impact our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, science, education and the arts. Every “Tillman Tuesday,” we are committed to highlighting the individual impact of a Tillman Scholar, focusing on their success in school, career and community—all thanks to your support. This week we catch up with 2013 Tillman Scholar and Military Spouse, April Krowel who just defended her dissertation and will graduate with a degree in Counseling Psychology from Ball State University next year. April recently received the Student Veterans of America Association Raytheon Scholarship which is presented to two veterans nationwide.
BEING A MILITARY SPOUSE, HOW DID YOU ALSO REACH THE DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
“My husband joined the military prior to me joining. The reason I joined was sparked by post 9/11. I went to give blood right after the attacks and stood in line for 10-plus hours in Indianapolis. By the time I got to the front of the line, I was slightly anemic and wasn’t able to give blood and was upset and emotional so I went and joined the military instead. I was a 17-year-old teenage girl so I probably should have thought it through a bit more but it probably would have happened in a different fashion as I still serve on different boards and am involved in my community.”
HOW LONG DID YOU SERVE AND WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES DID YOUR DEPLOYMENTS ENTAIL?
“I joined in 2002 and did a tour in Iraq, first wave in March 2003, a few weeks after President Bush announced we were going to war. My husband and I got married March 14 right before we deployed so our honeymoon was in Iraq [laughing] – however we did stay at a Holiday Inn. I served as a Food Service Specialist and was with a Military Police unit so I helped keep the soldiers fed. I volunteered to go out on patrols with our unit and was able to leave the base. I separated from the military in 2003 due to medical reasons.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF DURING YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY THAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW BEFORE YOU JOINED THE SERVICE?
“In hindsight I think I was a lot stronger than I think I was at the time. I do have a lot of regrets about leaving the service when I did. At the time I was leaving there were a lot of resources for war but not for mental health, which really affected many people I knew. Now 13 years later I’m more confident as a person and more of a team player. With my own struggles reintegrating, numerous friends and family, as well as fellow veterans sparked my passion for the study of Psychology.”
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE YOUR EDUCATION AND CAREER ON MENTAL HEALTH?
“It was inspired by my own struggles with reintegrating post-service, watching family members struggle as well as learning of friends who decided to end their own lives just spoke to me about the limited resources we had at the time for mental health. I started taking some Psychology courses and I really liked it and also developed two sustained lines of research (suicide and student veterans) focusing on veterans and military service.”
WITH PLANS TO GRADUATE IN 2017 AND RECENTLY HAVING PASSED YOUR DISSERTATION, WHAT DID YOU FOCUS ON IN YOUR DISSERTATION?
“It focused on student veterans compared to non-veteran peers and taking a look at college adjustment between the two groups. I’m really excited about it as I did find a significant difference between the two groups. My results indicated that, on average, student veterans are significantly more socially adjusted than non-veterans. This is important because previous literature has found the opposite and researchers have argued that campuses across the country should be doing more to assist veterans become acclimated to college. Maybe that programming has worked, or maybe student veterans aren’t experiencing the same struggles. It could also be that there are more student veterans on college campuses now compared to several years ago, and that is what helps veterans adjust socially. More research is needed to explore why there is such a difference.”
HAVING SEPARATED FROM THE MILITARY A YEAR PRIOR TO YOUR HUSBAND, COULD YOU PLEASE TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES YOU EXPERIENCED FROM SERVING IN THE MILITARY TO BEING A MILITARY SPOUSE AND DO YOU FEEL YOU’RE ABLE TO SUPPORT YOUR HUSBAND ‘BETTER’ KNOWING WHAT HE’S GOING THROUGH AS A SERVICE MEMBER?
“There are certainly pros and cons with serving in the military as well as being a military spouse. With the both of us, I can only speculate, that we may not have adjusted as well as we have without having one another and having deployed at the same time in the same place – that was a huge help. The con of being a military spouse and veteran is that you know more than other military spouses may know. Having returned home before him I knew what types of missions he was going on and where and had a bit more intel than most military spouses.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WOMEN SERVING IN THE MILITARY WITH SPECIAL FORCES GROUPS AND SUCH?
“I think it’s fantastic, though I wouldn’t want to do it. There’s women out there who want to do it and can. I’ve seen both genders perform in a variety of ways so I feel like if they can do it, more power to them.”
WHAT WAS THAT MOMENT LIKE WHEN YOU LEARNED YOU HAD BEEN SELECTED AS A TILLMAN SCHOLAR AND WHAT HAS THE SCHOLARSHIP ENABLED YOU TO DO THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE OTHERWISE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO?
I learned about the scholarship through my search for military scholarships during the time when I was working on my PhD. Doing research on the scholarship and learning about the criteria and community component along with what my husband and his friends were going through, influenced the career path I chose, which is why I applied as a spouse. I remember getting the call when I was in class, notifying me that I had been selected and I was just glowing and honored. I keep hearing all these amazing stories about military service and sometimes I can’t believe I’m part of the Tillman Scholar community.
I really appreciate the networking and community components of the scholarship – being involved in the Pat Tillman organization itself is something I really appreciate. I’m a helper by nature so being able to be part of a community that has the same mindset is also a great thing and very important to me.”
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU’RE FOCUSED ON NOW AS FAR AS COMMUNITY OUTREACH?
“I just had my second child about 14 months ago, but shortly before that I spent three years on the Indiana Psychological Association board as a student representative. I was part of a task force that started a student committee with the organization and did a lot of advocating for students in Indiana as well as for veterans. With school coming to a close this year, I’m still involved in the American Psychological Association for graduate student’s advocacy team as a regional coordinator, lending my voice to veteran’s issues. I’m also wanting to become a Neuropsychologist so I joined a couple Neuropsychological organizations and am currently serving on a student-run committee. When I graduate, I hope to serve on a couple of nonprofit boards. I’m always trying to find ways to contribute to the overall psychological community.”
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL DREAM JOB ONCE YOU GRADUATE NEXT YEAR?
“I hope to match to a two-year neuropsychology post-doctoral fellowship and then be a Neuropsychologist with the VA. I would also like to return to service in the National Guard as Captain and a Military Psychologist. My goal is to pass the exam and rejoin the military in that capacity following graduation.”