Holden, BGSU receive high honors for support of veterans

Serving military active-duty and veteran students has become a priority for BGSU, thanks to the efforts of people like Dr. Brett Holden, film studies. Holden’s longtime work on behalf of these students and their families has earned him the respect and appreciation of the military, especially the National Guard.

He has used his position at the University to make students, faculty and staff more aware of both the contributions and the needs of those who have served their country while giving service members an outlet for sharing their experience.

On behalf of BGSU, Holden recently accepted the Above and Beyond Award from the Ohio Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. He received a trophy, and a plaque reading “Presented on behalf of the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve forces, for outstanding service and continuing support to the national defense,” along with a certificate signed by Secretary of State Jon Husted representing the people of Ohio.

BGSU was recognized along with major companies like PNC Bank, AT&T and Nationwide, and government organizations including the Cincinnati Police Department and Ohio Department of Public Safety.

“Individually and together, we bring our talents and commitment to helping our student veterans succeed,” said BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, ”and that is what has made BGSU’s veterans’ services so strong. Dr. Holden is a great example of inspirational leadership.”

Sgt. Aaron Zdawczyk, a BGSU alumnus who served in the local 148th Infantry Company and again in Afghanistan, nominated Holden and the University for the Above and Beyond Award. Zdawczyk has worked closely with Holden for several years, first as a student and later as a speaker in classes and assisting students. From the academic classes to the engagement with veterans, he said, Holden helps veterans “cope with what they experienced while overseas and on the front lines and in the reintegration process when coming home from war.”

On a personal level, Zdawczyk recalled that when he was serving in Iraq in 2006-07, he received “the most enormous care packages” that were put together by students on campus participating in Veteran Assessment and Service Team, under Holden’s direction. “Dr. Holden would do whatever it took to ensure that morale of our military members was at an all-time high,” he wrote in his letter of nomination.

For the past 16 years, Holden has used his literature and film studies classes as an avenue for presenting the perspective of military personnel and their families. His “War, Film and the Soldier Experience” service-learning class, for example, highlights the discrepancy between the reality of the soldier experience and its portrayal in film and encourages those contemplating making films about war and military service to first invest significant time in researching those topics.

Students in his classes participate in service-learning experiences with veterans and their families, and have helped transport veterans of World War II and the Korean War to the Toledo Express Airport so that they could fly to Washington, D.C., on Honor Flights, and have provided support to families of current military members.

Zdawczyk has also addressed the Veterans Assessment and Service Team, an early student-service organization founded by Holden to help advise the University on the needs of military students. In 2009-10, Holden co-chaired the Student Veteran Taskforce, a group of 15 faculty, staff and student-veterans who spent a year closely examining a variety of issues directly impacting the lives of BGSU student veterans, many of them in the National Guard. Their report helped guide the establishment of a veteran office as part of the Office of Nontraditional and Transfer Student Services, now serving the more than 500 student-veterans at BGSU.

In 2011, Holden was also honored for his commitment to veterans when the Ohio National Guard presented him the Adjutant General's Award.