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Content Any Way U Want It!

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Graduate student hosts military support group for loved ones

Mariana Grohowski has always had a strong connection to the military.

As the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran, Grohowski hopes to bring together other military family members at the University, people who she said are often neglected by society.

“It’s an issue close to my heart,” Grohowski said. “When you have someone in the military, it affects the whole family.”

Grohowski, 29, a graduate student in the English department, recently started the support group for anyone who knows someone in the military. Whether someone’s parents, siblings, significant other or spouse are in the military or are service veterans, the person will find an open ear in the group, she said.

Cynthia Mahaffey, a General Studies Writing instructor, knew of Grohowski’s research related to service women and first brought to her the idea of a group for military family members. After noticing several women in her classes had significant others deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, Mahaffey knew a group could help comfort the students.

“These girls were just nervous wrecks all the time,” Mahaffey said. “One girl used to come in every morning and she’d be crying because she sees in the news her boyfriend is over in Afghanistan, where they’re being attacked.”

Since her students felt like they didn’t have anyone to talk with, Mahaffey knew of Grohowski’s connections to the military and approached her to consider starting the group.

“I knew she had this interest and she and I just talked a little bit, so I thought she might have the energy and the interest in doing it,” Mahaffey said.

Mahaffey and Grohowski both stressed that while a college campus may feel like a lonely place to many students, particularly those connected to the military, groups like the one Grohowski is starting can ease their concerns.

At their first meeting in January, four women students joined Grohowski in discussing what they hoped to get out of the group.

For now, they decided against becoming an official student organization, Grohowski said.

“We were looking for support, just to have time to talk to one another,” she said.

Rather than formal meetings, they chose to have biweekly outings, such as a movie or dinner, so the conversations of their experiences with loved ones in the military will come up more naturally, Grohowski said.

For Grohowski, the support group is as much a personal endeavor as it is helping those around her. As someone whose father is a military veteran and who has friends currently serving, Grohowski can relate to those who know someone now in the military as well as those who know a veteran of the military.

“I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to,” she said. “This might just be a support system on campus where we can talk about what we’re going through and know that we’re not alone.”

Knowing people in the military can be a struggle for people, Grohowski said, because when they are deployed in times of war, it is difficult to communicate with service men and women overseas.

“It’s hard. You want to support them, you’re proud of them, you’re excited for them,” she said. “At the same time you’re really scared.”

Freshman Ashley Isham joined the group after seeing Grohowski’s message in a campus update.

“Literally the day before she posted it, my fiance left for boot camp,” Isham said. “I’d gone to bed and I was praying to God to give me a sign for everything to be okay.”

By chance, Isham said she saw Grohowski’s message and knew her prayers had been answered.

She went to the first meeting and listened to the girls’ stories, and even shared her own.

“My expectations are really just to develop friendships with the four girls in there, and I want to help them out as much as they’ve helped me,” Isham said.

For Grohowski, being around others at the University who have had similar experiences has erased her feelings of loneliness, and replaced them with the comfort of support and understanding.

“I think about how, here I am at school and I have friends here and they know me but they don’t know personal things about me,” Grohowski said. “When you share something with other people [in the group], you don’t have to fill in the blanks.”

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