Serving those that served them: An honored veteran

America’s heroes are the veterans that sacrifice themselves and sometimes their lives for their families and country. In honor of Student Veteran Awareness week at BYU we honor all veterans and student veterans on campus and around the country.

A granite bench in the Utah State Veterans Memorial Cemetery was placed in honor of Mathew Wood, brother of former nursing student Kayli Wood. After recently returning home from Afghanistan, Matthew passed away as a result of trauma from the war. Fellow classmates and nursing students in the Public and Global Health Nursing course individually raised funds and donated a bench in his honor.

“As a class we all really respected Kayli,” Averi  Gremlich, recent  nursing graduate says. “She was so strong; we thought to ourselves ‘what would I do in that situation.’”

Dr. Kent Blad, associate dean and teaching professor, as well as Ron Ulberg, associate professor co-teach the veteran class. At the end of the semester the class voted on what to purchase with funds the class raised. The decision was made to place a granite bench in honor of Matt Wood and his family in the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Buffdale near Camp Williams.

“We shared it with the family, and that was really special as it touched our students’ lives.” Blad says. “For the sacrifice of him and the family, the family is often the unsung heroes for their sacrifice.”

Wood and her family were thrilled about the bench being donated as they felt that the class worked hard and sacrificed on their behalf. Benches in that cemetery are places of peace to ponder about a loved one.handouts 3 (1)

“It was definitely a very special experience for my family” says Wood. “The bench is right by the American flag which reminds me of all the men and women who have gone before us and sacrificed their lives for our freedom. My fellow classmates worked hard and went above and beyond.”

Camille Tranter, fellow classmate and recent graduate recalls each student raising $50 dollars to contribute to the bench. Personally, she babysat neighborhood kids, some students did a mud run in Las Vegas, and others made a GOFUNDME account to make the donation more meaningful.

“It really changed all of our perspectives, to see people in these extreme cases and how the military changed their lives” says Tranter. “I think all of this made me appreciate even more the rights and freedoms that we have.”

Wood originally signed up for the class to help her brother.  After his passing, Wood wanted to withdraw because it would be too emotionally hard. After talking to Dr. Blad at her brother’s funeral, she decided to go forward in the class and felt that it would help her understand her brother better.

“I found peace in my brother’s death from the class, as I learned about what kind of hardships he faced,” Wood says. “I also learned that I wanted to always be the kind and compassionate nurse that our amazing veterans need.”

Wood learned about PTSD, mental illness, anxiety and depression and what veterans experience when they come home from service.

“PTSD just isn’t something we read about in the newspapers, or in other places,” Blad says. “This is something that happens in our own neighborhoods and our own homes and if you don’t believe me, ask Kayli Wood.”

This week we honor all veterans and servicemen on campus. The Student Veteran Society of America supports student veterans as they come home and continue in school. The Mathew Wood dedicated bench is a symbol to all families and induvial of the sacrifices made for freedom. Every time the flag waves by the bench in the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, the Wood family and nursing students especially remember an honored solider and his individual service and sacrifice.

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