Standing in front of fellow veterans, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate student Amanda Meurer gives these first-year students study tips and other skills on being successful.
By her side is Mako, a golden retriever service dog who helps the U.S. Army veteran with anxiety and her diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. Mako has been with Meurer since this summer through the K9s For Warriors program. He is able to sense when she’s anxious and signals her to pet him which soothes her anxiety. Mako is also trained to help her with mobility.
“In the military when you have a friend with you it is called a battle buddy. Now, I have a battle buddy that just happens to be a dog,” she said.
Meurer, seeking her Master’s degree in Human Security & Resilience with Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus, spent eight months in a military camp in Iraq that faced mortar and rocket attacks. She was a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 8th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment nicknamed the “Flying Tigers.” In addition to PTSD, she suffered shoulder and back injuries maintaining ground vehicles and was placed on medical retirement and honorably discharged.
Today, as a peer mentor, she teaches new student veterans UNIV 101, which is everything from how to plan class schedules for their Academic Study Plan to what services are available on campus and in the community. She received a bachelor’s degree in May in Homeland Security and has also worked at the Veteran Student Services office helping veterans adjust to college life.
“When you are in the veteran community, you are part of a different brother and sisterhood. It’s nice to have people you can be yourself around,” Meurer said. “I want to be able to help student veterans and hopefully they will be able to help someone else one day.”
It took Meurer a couple of months to come out of her shell when she transferred to Embry-Riddle in 2015 from a community college in Kentucky, following a little over five years in the Army. But once she did, she found her place in leadership positions, including helping to reestablish the Student Veterans Organization and serving on organizations, including the Homeland Security Student Association, the Order of the Sword and Shield security studies honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa’s leadership honor society and Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.
“She can relate to what student veterans are going through in their transition from the military to college life,” said Dawn McGowan, UNIV 101 instructor for the veterans course and former director of Veteran Student Services. “She is a great communicator and motivates students to be successful.”
Meurer ultimately hopes to work for a government law enforcement or intelligence agency as a way of continuing to give back. She’s passionate about wanting to end the opioid crisis, which has impacted her hometown in Kentucky.“I may not be wearing the uniform, but I’ll be able to serve through the civil sector,” she said.
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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive institution specializing in aviation, aerospace, engineering and related degree programs. A fully accredited university, Embry-Riddle is also a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. A nonprofit, independent institution, Embry-Riddle offers more than 100 associate, baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. The university educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through its Worldwide Campus with more than 135 locations in the United States, Europe and Asia, and through online programs. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.