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Meet Matthew Parrish

SVA Month of Heroes SMALL10.jpgAge: 30

Year and major: Junior/Psychology

Hometown: Baton Rouge, La

Branch/Rank: U.S. Army/Specialist

Service: 3 years, 6 months; 2 tours of duty Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 1 2003 Invasion; OEF/OIF 3 Peacekeeping; Alpha Company 4-64 Armor 3rd Infantry Division, 19K M1A1 Abrams Tank Crewman.

Tell us about your service experience. I grew up with a great upbringing and felt a part of my community. When I went to war, I had to muster feelings of anger and bitterness for my enemy. The first time I was shot at, all the politics went out the window. But something happened within my mind that didn’t match my heart. Today, I challenge myself to rebut my feelings for stereotypes and cultures I don’t understand.  I can see today that through having the most intense of emotions for people of an entire race is quite ignorant. I have found that racism is real and horrible for everyone involved. I have learned I can think rational thoughts and develop meaningful relationships in relation to the Arabic culture, not fearing indifference anymore.

What are some of your memorable experiences in college? I have been welcomed by the students as well as the employees, with much appreciation ranging from simple thanks to a student even buying me breakfast one morning before class. These simple but wonderful gestures make a lasting impression as to what our student body is all about. I am impressed with the events that the SVA does. I have even participated in a rock-climbing event; that was an amazing way to interact with other veterans of the JU community. But I would say the absolute most memorable moment would be the day I became a Dolphin. I held negative reservations about myself, especially with the real-life things that I had already been through in combat. To be told I was a part of something new and worthwhile has changed my life.

Any favorite classes? One class that stands out is Dr. (Douglas) Lewis’ Social Psychology class. The ideas and theories of this subject really have expanded my ideas of how social situations influence me and my actions. 

Tell us about JU’s role in your transition to civilian life.  I use many of the student services that the school offers, ranging from special accommodations in class to extra tutoring. I acquired Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and with that came many obstacles that I had to accept and overcome, and I had to be willing to ask for help. The transition from military to civilian is different for every veteran, but for myself, I know that I have lost the structure of the military and found a new way of living as a student through keeping an open mind and being willing to take advice, especially from my teachers -- and even students, at times. JU has empowered me.

What sets JU apart? JU offers opportunities for veterans, especially with the Yellow Ribbon program. The environment is amazing; I love the smell of fresh-cut grass; the large oaks remind me of home in Baton Rouge. It’s rested on the river and keeps the serenity flowing. There are many services for veterans, which I find refreshing. I have attended another college in Jacksonville and it is not even in comparison with the atmosphere, the higher education, and the overall college experience.

What might surprise others about you? I’m a softy; I really would give my life for our country. I am willing to help people I don’t particularly get along with. I was injured in Iraq in 2005, which resulted in paralysis of my right leg. I have had to learn to walk with a leg I can’t feel. I have a 10-year-old son who is the apple of my eye.

For more about JU’s programs and services for student-veterans, visit http://www.ju.edu/VA and http://www.ju.edu/registrar/Pages/VA-Information.aspx.