“It was supposed to be a regular, everyday assignment, but this issue has been weighing on me for a long time. Once I got started it just evolved.”
That’s how sophomore Matt Simmons explains the beginnings of a project that secured him an interview with the Secretary of Defense, a deal to publish an article in “The Army Times” and plans to attend this spring’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
Simmons is an army veteran majoring in political science at High Point University. The project he’s talking about started in a general education English course where he was asked to research one subject and become an “expert” on the topic. He chose to study the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on veterans and what the government could do to make the situation better.
“I’ve seen so many friends and their families suffer because of PTSD,” says Simmons. “If a veteran does have the courage to come forward, they often have medications given to them. That’s not enough.”
Simmons dug deeper.
“Of all suicides in the country, 7 percent are veterans. That is too high,” says Simmons. “Right now, the VA has a program that consists of a 24-hour crisis line. If someone calls, they can get help, but I think that’s too late. We should be reaching out to veterans before they reach that point.”
Now, the class assignment has become Simmons’ new mission. He is scheduled to interview the Secretary Defense about the issue later in March, hoping to learn about programs that may be in the works to help veterans. He also plans to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference the first week of March, to talk to influential lawmakers in attendance.
“If I can get just one question in, I might be able to bring more attention to this issue,” says Simmons.
“Matt has tackled this task with an intensity and vision that is beyond an undergraduate general education course,” says Allison Walker, instructor of English, who gave the original assignment. “I encourage students to ‘change the world one reader at a time,’ and Matt has accepted that challenge with enthusiasm.”
“She has really helped me write the paper and find the most effective wording to make my arguments,” says Simmons of Walker. “I know when I submit it for publication, it will be the best it can be.”
Simmons already has a commitment from “The Army Times” to publish the paper when it’s complete, but his work won’t stop there. He says he will eventually run for Congress and continue making his and other veterans’ voices heard.