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MSW Masters, Military, Africa, PTSD

April 11, 2013

I am a military professional originally from Uganda who wants very much to become a social work professional, so as to help veterans who suffer from a variety of special challenges but, most specifically, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I now live in America because I was granted political asylum on the basis of being persecuted as a result of my sexual orientation in my country of origin. Ugandans were given special treatment with respect to recruitment for the many thousands of security guards that have long been needed in Iraq, as a result of our exception skills in English; we are easier to train. Working as an armed security guard in Iraq was a formative experience for me sparking my interest in social work. I want to have the profound privilege of helping adults and children to survive the great difficulties that often confront military personnel and their families.

I witnessed first-hand how the war was affecting our service members’ lives in Iraq. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how difficult it will be for many of them when they return home, especially those with PTSD: divorce, unemployment, family rejection, even homelessness for increasing numbers. Many if not most of our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the conflicts of the future, will need some level of help in order to lead functional lives upon their return. Most are still very young, rendering them particularly vulnerable. I will be enlisting in the National Guard next year in preparation for joining one of the branches of the US military. I hope to utilize what I learn in your program in the service of the US military, with special attention paid to the study of how to go about building increasingly creative response mechanisms for PTSD, with an eye to prevention as well as treatment and among both veterans and active military personnel. I am an orphan, both parents dying while I was still a child. I have had to fend for myself my whole life. It took me a long time to learn to share my problems, to learn that a problem shared is a problem half solved.

 On a personal level, I feel very strongly deep down inside me that I became aware of PTSD while growing up in Uganda. In addition to being gay, there was a lot of political violence and instability all around me. I was myself routinely beaten, especially as an adolescent, and I never knew where the next beating would come from. The reasons for this violence are complex, and I do not wish to explore them; rather, I prefer to focus on recovery, and especially enjoy the company of others who share my intrigue with PTSD, either because they themselves suffer in this way, or they have a loved one with PTSD, or they have decided to make it a professional focus for one reason or another.

Since I am joining the military and hope to build a career as an active member, I hope to learn a great deal over the long term about military institutions: as a result of holding the MSW. I will, of course, be treated completely differently; and I am certain that my military career will be especially satisfying as a result of earning this degree from the University of XXXX especially renowned program. XXXX’s MSW Program is my first choice because of your special focus on military issues. America is now my country and I consider myself a patriot. I want to help those who pay such a heavy price defending our country and are often forced to endure long separations from loved ones, as well as having to deal with frequently traumatic situations. I want to dedicate my life to becoming the very best social worker possible so that I can help our military personnel stay strong.

I feel very strongly that I have the kinds of core personal and professional values that qualify me for study in your program, and later a long and rewarding career helping service members to stay connected to their support systems, counseling individuals who are about to deploy as well as their families: especially through crisis intervention and help for those that have undergone a traumatic experience. My greatest joy would be leading workshops on a variety of topics related to the care of our mental health as soldiers and families of soldiers, issues like transitioning from deployment to everyday life.

Since I was 15 years, I have never stopped being a vocal advocate for HIV-positive people who were discriminated against, serving as an advocate for greater public awareness concerning the spread of this disease. I was in Junior High school when both of my parents died of AIDS and the disease left an indelible mark on my soul. Within the next few years, the disease reached pandemic proportions in Uganda. My first social work position was as a volunteer with some of our most vulnerable children (orphans) in Uganda. More recently, here in a resident facility in the USA, I have also worked with children with AIDS.

 As the first born of six children, when my parents passed away, I took up the responsibility of parenthood and this had a profound influence on me for many years and greatly influenced my course of study at university. I decided to major in social work because I wanted to acquire knowledge and the skills for reaching out to disadvantaged people, orphans for example, and the elderly.  I knew firsthand how it felt to lose parents, and to have to struggle mightily to attain an education because of poverty and the duty of helping one’s family. As a gay man and a person of color, I very well understand what it means to be discriminated against and to feel isolated.

 While here in the US, I have volunteered with different organizations working with the homeless and HIV/AIDS infected persons, and I have learned how drugs here in America are taking an enormous social toll on the lives of young people, dropping out of school, often becoming homeless, prostitution, STDS, leading to low self esteem, a high crime rate, and death. I witnessed vicious cycles of poverty and disease in Uganda and I had to struggle myself against social discrimination and isolation from my people in Uganda and even here in the United States.

 I want so very much to attend the XXXX School of Social Work because of the way that your program is dedicated to providing excellent graduate education for people destined to create social change. I feel that I have much to contribute, especially to soldiers and veterans contemplating suicide because of PTSD and/or low esteem. I want to labor to help restore hope. I want to study the issue of HIV/AIDS within the army. People rarely talk about HIV/AIDS within the army and there is need for extensive research within this area too. I also have a special interest in geriatric veterans, especially those that are homeless.

 Most universities in the Developing World have deficiencies when it comes to libraries and information but I did my best and utilized all the limited available resources to make it through. Our social work program didn’t have any special concentrations, so I was awarded a generic social work degree.  I learned how to think critically and to intervene when serving the emotional, social, and psychological needs of clients, gaining knowledge that I was able to apply during my fieldwork placements. I did my first field work with a probation office. This office was responsible for helping women who were battered by their men. I was able to apply what I had learned in the fields of psychology, social services, human growth, behavior and development, and effectively analyze these people’s problems and help them to choose among various different options and services. In my second field work placement, I was able to work with a community service department at the district level, attending court sessions and interviewing petty offenders to access their eligibility for community service. I was also responsible for supervising these offenders at their placements. I wrote my dissertation on the knowledge, attitudes, and practices surrounding the issue of female ownership of property.  I decided to do this study because of the many problems that women faced who sought help at the probation office. 

I want to have the profound privilege of helping adults and children to survive the great difficulties that often confront military personnel and their families. I very much look forward to developing my leadership skills as an Officer, receiving specialty training that will serve as a foundation for constant, life-long professional growth.

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