U. Iowa students cope with deployment

by Seung Min Kim, U-wire

(U-WIRE) IOWA CITY, Iowa – Emily Pries still vividly remembersher wedding day.

That day — highlighted by the 280-person gala held in aDavenport church — wasn’t too long ago for the 22-year-oldUniversity of Iowa senior. But now, less than two months after hernuptials, she faces life without husband at her side, perhaps forthe next 18 months.

She admitted that life is tough with a loved one in themilitary, but she added that she knows she is not alone. To helpother University of Iowa students cope, she and University of Iowasenior Carissa Swanstrom have formed Students with Friends in theMilitary – designed to provide support for students experiencingdifficulties because of a loved one’s deployment.

The group’s first meeting will be held Thursday in the IMUMiller Room.

“Who knew that by the time that I was 22 that I was going to bea war bride?” Pries said. “Who also knew that my husband would be aveteran before the age of 25?”

The two co-founders will ask the UI Student Government to granttheir support group official status at tonight’s Student Assemblymeeting – the final step in the group’s formation, which began lastspring when Swanstrom and Pries crossed paths at a National Guardpicnic.

When rumors started to swirl that their significant others wouldsoon be deployed, the two started detailing plans for the newsupport group, Swanstrom said.

Jake Pries, 24, and Swanstrom’s boyfriend, 23-year-old Kirkwoodstudent Lanon Baccam, are in Texas with the 834th Combat EngineerUnit, and they could be deployed to Afghanistan as soon as May.

Swanstrom and Emily Pries remain optimistic about the interestin such a support group on campus, and they encourage whoever isinterested to attend the weekly meetings.

“We’ve gotten a good response from people we know,” Swanstromsaid.

University of Iowa psychology Professor John Harvey, whospecializes in loss and trauma, will contribute to Thursday’sdiscussion and offer information regarding disenfranchised grief,post-traumatic stress, adjustment, and the value of support groups,he said.

That type of value is something Emily Pries can attest to. The22-year-old, who has attended similar support groups, said tips andresources she has gotten from others in the same situation havehelped her cope until Jake Pries returns, which might not be untilAugust 2005.

“I’ve gotten a lot of tips from people at those meetings andfound a lot of resources that makes me feel better,” she said.”Now, it’s kind of my job to step up and help other people.”