Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications on August 29, 2012
A Backpack Journalist Hannah Rauhut poses with retired Sgt. Maj. Sam Rhodes, founder of Wounded Warrior Horsemanship program. (Courtesy photo)
Military kid Hannah Rauhut was given an assignment: create a multimedia presentation about a topic that was important to her. While some 13-year-old students might use the opportunity to discuss anything on their minds (my own “groundbreaking” middle school presentation addressed what brand of chocolate chips make for a tastier cookie), Rauhut had a more passionate approach — educate her peers on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Her presentation included facts, a video she made of the local Wounded Warrior Horsemanship program and a live interview with founder retired Sgt. Maj. Sam Rhodes on coping with PTSD. Not only did Rauhut get a perfect score and gratitude from her enlightened classmates, she’s now raising awareness nationwide as a journalist for A Backpack Journalist, a program that teaches military youth about resilience through creative expression. I spoke with Rauhut about the significance of raising awareness of PTSD, especially for youth.
What inspired you to focus on PTSD?
When I moved to Fort Benning, Ga., last year, I started volunteering with the horsemanship program. I didn’t know much about PTSD, but I was surprised to see how it affected our military. I started talking with Mr. Rhodes and hearing his story. I thought, “Could PTSD be here at Fort Benning?” Telling my classmates about PTSD could help them think if it affects their family or neighbor’s family.
Tell me about your experience with the Wounded Warrior Horsemanship program.
I took my father, a colonel for the 197th Brigade, to help me film the program, and Mr. Rhodes introduced me to all these people who were in it. All of them really opened up about PTSD. I even had the chance to interview a general. When you think of a service member you think of someone who is flawless, and when you see that a general has PTSD, you see he experiences issues like everyone else.
What did you learn while creating this project?
I could have thought, “Oh, it’s just another school project and I’ll just get through it,” but as I learned more, I became deeply concerned about PTSD. My own family doesn’t have experience with PTSD — but what about other military kids? Effects of a psychological wound can be just as harmful as losing a limb.
Why is it significant to raise awareness about PTSD with other military kids?
I think it’s extremely important for kids to understand what’s happening with their parents and what they may be exposed to. My hope is that if one of my peers has PTSD in their family, they can say, “Hey, my mom or dad might be going through that” and speak up. Being a military kid, I feel a strong connection to this issue — every time a soldier deploys, even my dad, they’re at risk for PTSD.
What surprised you most about your presentation?
I was amazed about how emotional it was, especially when Mr. Rhodes spoke. He opened up a lot to my class. The bell rang to go to the next class, and we were all there, still listening to Mr. Rhodes. My greatest hope would be to present this to service members one day. PTSD affects the family as much as it affects the service member, and that’s why everyone needs to learn about it.
Watch Hannah’s four-part video presentation, and follow her reporting on abackpackjournalist.com and braveheartveterans.org.
To learn how you can reach out and make a difference in your community, visit the White House initiative Joining Forces website or National Resource Directory to find a program and get involved. Kids can even make their own project at MilitaryKidsConnect.org, an interactive website with fun games, creative projects and more from National Center for Telehealth and Technology.