Service is in Daniela des Islets’ blood. Her father was an infantry officer in the Honduran military, and she’s been deployed with the U.S. Air Force twice, once in Afghanistan and once in Qatar. And now she’s studying biology, chemistry, and Spanish at the U, with plans to go on to medical school.
“I wanted to combine my passion for science and for people,” she says. The U’s research environment drew her to Utah. And at the U, the Veterans Support Center (VSC) has been a vital resource for her. The VSC helps veteran students or prospective students find services, support, and, perhaps most importantly, camaraderie.
“Having the opportunity to interact with other students who have had experiences similar to mine has been really reassuring,” says des Islets. “I have somebody to relate to, somebody who knows the experiences we have been through.”
Another U veteran, Craig Bryan, also understands the importance of veterans supporting each other—only his team’s focus is on the research end of that support. Bryan is an associate professor of psychology and executive director of the U’s National Center for Veterans Studies (NCVS), which focuses on research, outreach, and advocacy.
He says veterans’ unique life experiences provide irreplaceable insight when creating research to help improve the lives of veterans and active military. Some examples of the research from NCVS include understanding brain injuries, suicide, and novel treatments for PTSD.
“A lot of the research ideas we come up with are informed by our personal experiences,” says Bryan. “We’re reflecting upon the things we saw and experienced as veterans. And we’re now putting that into a scientific format so we can help our brothers and sisters in arms.”
“Sometimes things get stressful and I just want to quit. But then I look back at my deployments and say to myself, ‘You did that, you totally have this.’ ”
—DANIELA DES ISLETS