War, Then Peace: Notalone Supports Military Personnel and Loved Ones through Deployment, Return

By Andrews, Jayne | Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

War, Then Peace: Notalone Supports Military Personnel and Loved Ones through Deployment, Return


Andrews, Jayne, Phi Kappa Phi Forum


War is real. Perhaps that is not the deepest observation you should expect from a recent college graduate, but it's probably the most important thing that I've learned from my job at NotAlone.

WHEN I STARTED WORKING with NotAlone last year, war was not real. War was an abstract concept to be promoted or, more commonly, protested. The idea that actual people were involved did not really occur to me on a meaningful, emotional level until it became my job to listen to and edit the stories of real soldiers from real wars.

Allow me to explain: we at NotAlone partner with organizations that wrestle with how to help both soldiers and their families cope with the psychological hardships of military deployment. We create online communities and learning workshops that allow soldiers and their families to form long-term relationships with other members, helping them to become psychologically and emotionally whole again in a safe, confidential environment after their wartime experience.

When we develop programs for our soldiers and their families, we apply the research-proven learning principles developed by Dr. John Bransford, who is a worldwide treasure among the scientific community and the author of How People Learn. Coping with deployment issues is essentially a learning challenge, and we teach people to cope by engaging their hearts and minds through the power of stories.

Why do we do this? Because war irrevocably changes people. Intellectually we know this, but most of us experience it only superficially. We might slap a yellow ribbon on our car or give some change to a homeless Vietnam veteran, but we rarely take time beyond those token gestures to consider the lives and stories of the soldiers and their families.

I am a program content developer at NotAlone. I spend a great deal of time immersed in the audio interviews that we collect from soldiers and families. My personal experience here has been the polar opposite of my experience at Middle Tennessee State University. The college environment can encourage students to think that our words hold real value, or that our meager experience has given us enough wisdom to deserve a voice. …

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