By Ramin Rajaii
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
How is a military man supposed to assimilate back into society following a traumatic experience abroad?
UCLA senior Andrew Nicholls served eight years in the U.S. Army, including a year in Iraq, providing him with a unique perspective on the subject.
Now, he’s sharing his firsthand perspectives about the military and combat through a UCLA psychology course entitled, “Fast Cars and Battle Scars: Understanding the Modern Combat Veteran and PTSD,” the purpose for which is raising awareness of what it is like to serve and return to civilian society.
On Tuesday afternoon, Nicholls spoke on the subject at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, in a lunchtime chat presented by the Social Welfare department to promote military social work.
Nicholls led a discussion regarding the seminar, and various ways in which we can re-forge hope for war veterans.
Combat veterans make up 9% of the U.S. population. In their training, they must endure both extremely high mental and physical standards. As a result, returning to an entirely different world from which you have been disconnected is a near insurmountable task.
“You’ve been on an adrenaline rush the entire time,” Nicholls said, “Then you get home to a mundane life, and a lot of guys start racing motorcycles, skydiving and finding other thrill-seeking activities.”
Without such outlets, many veterans suffer from severe cases of PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder, experiencing everything from their ears ringing spontaneously and tunnel vision to a sudden inability to breathe.
In the talk, Nicholls emphasized that civilians must recognize war veterans for having provided service to their countries, and in so doing, military members have “written a check up to and including their lives.”
Nicholls is teaching the course through the UCLA Undergraduate Student Initiated Education Program, which enables outstanding juniors and seniors in the College of Letters and Science to develop and teach a one-unit seminar, under faculty supervision.
The class also will cover the experience of basic training, unique issues facing female veterans and how military training prepares prospective soldiers to kill.