associate director of the Nebraskan Student Union, 308.865.8523
Afghanistan veteran Jennifer Crane will speak as a part of the Faces of War event on Thursday, Nov. 10, at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“Faces of War is being held to commemorate Veterans Day, and to bring an educational opportunity to students, faculty, staff and the community to learn about the effects of war on veterans and what we can do for them,” said Tim Danube, associate director of the Nebraskan Student Union.
The event, which is sponsored by Loper Programming and Activities Council (LPAC), will begin at 12:20 p.m. with a wreath laying event at the flag poles near the Cope Fountain. Student Body President Jordan Gonzales of Morrill will give a welcome, and members of the UNK ROTC will play taps and present the wreath.
The recognition ceremony, which will take place from 4 – 5 p.m. in the Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room, is free and open to the public. At the ceremony, the ROTC will present the Colors, and Sherry Morrow, director of the Nebraska Safety Center and assistant professor of safety education, will discuss the Hero Flight. A veteran from another generational war will speak, followed by Crane at 4:30 p.m.
Crane, who joined the United States military at the age of 17, was sent to Afghanistan as a part of the Operation Enduring Freedom after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“My first day of basic training was Sept. 11, 2001,” Crane said. “I was sitting with a platoon of strangers as the towers fell that day, and my drill sergeant said we were all going to war. He was right.”
Three weeks into Crane’s deployment, one of her closest friends was killed. A month later, her base and the surrounding area were attacked by mortar shells, which injured both local citizens and soldiers.
“The images of their injuries, including lost limbs, and severe head and face trauma, will always be imprinted in my brain,” Crane said. “I witnessed violence, death and carnage that I was totally unprepared for.”
After returning to the United States, Crane began to isolate herself from society and suffered from the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including night terrors, paranoia, fear of crowds, increased hostility and anger, hyper vigilance and periods of deep depression. She became homeless, involved in the sex trade, and a user of both cocaine and crack cocaine. She eventually became connected with the organization Give an Hour, where she began to see a psychotherapist.
“It will be eight years this October since I came home from overseas, but the experiences live inside me like it was yesterday,” she said.
“Today I am the mother of an adorable little girl and a spokesperson for veterans with mental health issues.
“There are hundreds of thousands of veterans, many of them women, out there just like me, suffering and feeling like society has forgotten about them,” Crane said. “While I know that society is awakening and stepping up for my brothers and sisters in arms, there is still so much more education and awareness-building that has to be done before our country really understands what those who served are going through now.”
Earlier this year, Crane was a part of Fatigues To Fabulous (F2F), an organization which works with the fashion industry to help women make the transition to a civilian wardrobe, raise awareness of the challenges women face upon return from war and harness resources to support them in areas including education, jobs, health care, family support and finance.
“This event is important for not only what attendees will learn, but mostly for how they can honor our Veterans,” Danube said.