VPA Spotlights
Adam LeGrand with his service dog, Molly Adam LeGrand with his service dog, Molly

As a medic in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years, Adam LeGrand '18 experienced and witnessed traumatic events that had a long-term impact on him. At a recent meeting of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) housed at University College, LeGrand shared information on the Disabled Student Veteran Liaison Program (DSL), a national peer-to-peer program that assists students with services offered through the Office of Disability Services.

LeGrand,  who is earning a bachelor’s degree in communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, guides other student veterans through the process of getting the services they require. “I help them navigate the system, help them access care at the VA hospital or through Tricare and connect them with available resources,” he says. “And, if my schedule allows, I will walk the student veteran to the Office of Disability Services and wait in the waiting area while they meet with a staff member—just to show that they have someone who supports them.” There is no judgement—just a friendly, helping hand from fellow veterans, says LeGrand. Any military-related disability qualifies a student veteran for the confidential program, regardless of rating.

LeGrand was nominated by Jessica Calhoun, assistant director of Veteran & Military Connected Students, and Ron Novak, director of the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA), to bring the DSL program to Syracuse University. Currently, there are only four other DSL programs in place on college campuses across the country. LeGrand says he was in the perfect place as the program started at the national level. He wrote the policy for the program at SU, and that policy has been adopted by other universities across the nation.

Soldiers are trained during military service to “suck it up” when it comes to getting help for any problems, LeGrand says. Destigmatizing disabilities is an important part of identifying oneself as having issues that can lead to accommodations on campus or in the workplace. LeGrand wants his fellow veterans to know that it is okay to have a diagnosis or disability and ask for support services. “There is no shame in asking for help. This program is 100 percent confidential and no identifying or diagnostic information is collected,” he explains.

“The number of disabled student veterans entering college who will need accommodations in the educational setting is increasing,” says LeGrand. “DSL will help bridge the gap of understanding while informing veterans of the services available.”

As a veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress, LeGrand is passionate about another support program as well. He is an ambassador for the K9s for Warriors program. K9s for Warriors is the number one provider of service animals for veterans suffering from PTS, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma.

“After my second voluntary hospitalization for PTS, my friend convinced me that I needed to seek additional options to treat my problems,” says LeGrand. “The military and veteran suicide epidemic in our nation is appalling, to say the least. The VA health care model is to treat these illnesses with drugs that can be addictive. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Klonopin have actually been linked to suicidal ideations. I’m proud to say I don’t take them anymore. My service animal Molly has been a great tool to augment my physical and emotional therapies.”

K9s for Warriors leads the nation in research, quality and training of service animals. As of September 2017, 748 dogs have been rescued from high-kill shelters and placed with 357 warriors. The program rescues both the warrior and the dog, says LeGrand.

“K9s for Warriors paired me with the best solution I’ve found—Molly. It’s better to pick up a leash than to pick a life-ending solution to one’s problems.” LeGrand wants to remind those with any type of disability that there is help. “People care and want to help, but they have to take that first step.”

For more information about the Disabled Student Veteran Liaison Program, contact LeGrand via email at svodsl@svosu.org or 315.443.9297. For more information about K9s for Warriors, email info@K9sforwarriors.org or call 904.686.1956.

--Eileen Jevis