Brent Russell '13, M.S.W '14 uses his military experience and Social Work knowledge to help Veterans recover.
by Efe Tanci“I don’t feel our veterans are receiving the support that they really need to function.”
—Brent Russell ’13, M.S.W. ’14
If you visit the Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island Nassau County Vet2Vet Peer Networking groups, you’ll find the following quote from a former U.S. Navy SEAL: “Are you happy with your job? Are you capable of a healthy relationship? Are you capable of fulfilling your dreams? If you didn’t answer yes to any of these very simple questions, then you need to recognize that your way of thinking is UNSAT, or unsatisfactory!”
The site then describes how Vet2Vet offers weekly groups where a small number of veterans meet to “share knowledge, provide mutual support and share resources.” The coordinator of the program is Brent Russell ’13, M.S.W. ’14, who uses his own military experience to relate to the problems veterans face.
Russell joined the army just before the beginning of the Gulf War in 1990. After completing basic training, he went to Fort Gordon, Georgia, to complete his military occupational specialty (MOS) training in radio repair and operation.
After serving his country for almost two years, Russell left the military. He worked for the Epilepsy Foundation of Long Island and for Estée Lauder Inc., and ran his own landscaping business. Finally, “I thought it was time for me to settle down and [become] more focused, with a plan, rather than bouncing around,” he said. After more than a decade out of school, he enrolled in Adelphi’s School of Social Work to complete a B.S.W.
“When you look at the history of veterans in this country, it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t get any respect when they came back home. There was a big stigma against them. When we talk about our current war, I don’t feel our veterans are receiving the support that they really need to function,” Russell said. “They have been hurt. I don’t think we, as a country, acknowledge it completely. There’s a lot more that we need to do.”
After his graduation, he quickly found employment with the Veterans Health Alliance. His clients, who come from all branches of the armed services, struggle with varying degrees of issues such as substance abuse and trauma. Russell often reaches out to the families of his clients to help with recovery because, he said, “When a soldier goes off to war, it’s not just him who’s affected, it’s everyone.”
In September 2014, having recently received a Master of Social Work, Russell was promoted to coordinator of Vet2Vet.
“The timing was perfect,” Russell said. “If I didn’t have a diploma, I wouldn’t have [been offered] that position.”
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