Dr. Brett Holden, theatre and film, has made a life mission of raising awareness about veterans and their families and the struggles they face — by both integrating the subject into his academic teaching and organizing services for their benefit.
This summer, the Ohio National Guard expressed its appreciation for his enduring commitment when it presented him the Adjutant General’s Award. Col. John C. Harris, Jr., Assistant Adjutant General Army, presented the award to Holden on behalf of Major General Deborah A. Ashenhurst, the Adjutant General of the state of Ohio, in Findlay.
Holden was nominated for the award by his longtime community partner Margret Szymanski, a Family Assistance Specialist with the Ohio National Guard, with whom he has worked for a decade.
Holden has an established relationship with the military in northwest Ohio due in part to his affiliation with BGSU, as well as his personal and professional relationship with the local infantry unit, B Co. 1-148th. His service-learning course, “War, Film, and the Soldier Experience,” highlights the discrepancies between the portrayal of the soldier experience and the reality, and has moved undergraduates to research and assist the veteran population. Through reading and research, students learn to separate propaganda from fact and become aware of the power of film to influence.
Holden also encourages administrators at BGSU to understand the experience of veteran soldiers’ transition to civilian life, facilitating outreach to veterans on campus, and reaching out to the local infantry unit and their families during deployments.
In 2003, Holden organized VAST – the Veteran Assessment and Service Team—on campus. In this group, students have volunteered service hours to assist local service members and their families and worked with other organizations that support veterans. The mission of VAST is to educate students and community members about war, the effects of war, and the veteran experience in general.
VAST members and students enrolled in “War, Film, and the Soldier Experience” have worked closely with B Co. 1-148th and the Family Assistance Center by assisting at Family Readiness Group meetings, providing volunteers at briefings, organizing care-package drives and phone card donations, and serving in the homes of deployed service members. Holden has tied student service directly to the outcomes of his film course.
In 2009-10, Holden was co-chair of the Student-Veteran Task Force at BGSU, working with University personnel and student veterans to create a plan to better meet the needs and desires of veterans on campus.
“Dr. Holden’s passion for veterans is unwavering. He has dedicated a large portion of his life to educating students on the effects of war through film and text and to mentoring on-campus veterans to help them reintegrate back into college life. His work with the local unit in Bowling Green has assisted many families directly and indirectly and he remains steadfast to continue that work,” Szymanski said.