UI Veterans Association to host first Warrior Challenge


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Veterans returning from service face challenges adapting to everyday life — and a unique set of difficulties, University of Iowa student veteran advocates said, if they're coming back to a large university.

Officials from the UI Veterans Association will host the inaugural Warrior Challenge and 5K Run/Walk on Saturday with plans to donate all proceeds to the national Wounded Warrior Project, which aims to ease veterans' transition back to life at home.

Connie Chapman, a combat stress recovery manager with the Wounded Warrior Project, said a veteran entering into a university atmosphere may experience an increase in psychological distress, anxiety, and new pressures.

"[It's difficult] adjusting to a new environment that might be completely and utterly foreign to you," she said.

Some returning military personnel may also face mobility issues because of injuries or feel hypervigilant, she said.

UI Veterans Association President Amanda Irish described her own hardships after starting her studies at the UI in 2006 following a four-year tour as a nuclear, biological, chemical defense specialist. The 28-year-old said she initially experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and only looked into the Veterans Association three years after her enrollment.

"[The association] was created to be a support system and to make sure [veterans] know who they can go to if it they have a need," she said. "This feels like home; this feels like the military. The people I know, they get it. That's why it's so important that we get the word out about what we do."

The race — in which participants will compete in military-style endurance training events such as Tire Flip and Stone Carry — marks the first time the Veterans Association has donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. The association decided to be a third-party sponsor for the Wounded Warriors Project when the members began planning for the challenge in August.

Michael Considine, a Veterans Association member and race director, said he plans to host another Warrior Challenge at the same time next year. And, he said, the group would possibly expand the competition to a nationwide event.

"Something that sets this race apart is the military challenges of the race," he said. "This is something that hasn't been attempted here or nationally yet."

UI freshman Considine joined the Veterans Association last fall after training in the Iowa Air National Guard from 2010-2011.

"I hope to increase [the group's] campus presence, both for the community and for student veterans to know we are a home base for them," Irish said. "Our goals are retention and graduations, and the students who are out there need to know we are here."

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