They are healthy and ready

Megan Dunick

Students Brad Taylor and Joe Gray discuss their personal experiences overseas and what it’s like mentally to serve in the military.

ROTC students in good mental health

There is an ongoing trend that many soldiers returning from Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from mental health diseases. But for two Kent State students, that is not the case.

Senior criminal justice major Brad Taylor and senior history major Joe Gray are dressed comfortably in casual clothes as they sit their tall frames down in two oversized plush chairs. The room is dim yet relaxing as they begin to converse about their personal experiences overseas and what it is like mentally to serve in the military.

“When I went over, I was initially scared,” said Brad Taylor, senior criminal justice major. “When you see all the coverage about the war on T.V., I thought — you know — you are getting shot at 24/7. But it was a lot different than that.”

Both Taylor and senior history major Joe Gray served overseas before joining the ROTC Army program at Kent State. Taylor was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2004 where he served in the military. As for Gray, he was in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq for 15 months.

Gray and Taylor agree that they had many worries before being deployed overseas.

“I was pretty nervous when I first went over,” Gray said. “I was scared shitless on the flight over because I had no idea what to expect.”

They both were taught the essential military skills needed in the basic training camps, which are held throughout the United States.

“Mentally, over there, you just take your mind off of everything during your time off,” Gray said.

From spending time playing basketball and video games to calling or e-mailing loved ones, the military was somewhat of a home away from home.

“The way I saw it was going overseas was kind of like a vacation,” Taylor said. “It was my first time out of the United States, so I was like, ‘Alright I’m going to go to Germany, then to Russia and then to Afghanistan.’”

After graduation, both Gray and Taylor will have to serve in the military again; however, they will have the status of officers. There is a chance of being deployed to serve overseas and the concern of leaving with a mental disease such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder — but this does not faze these two cadets.

“It is always a possibility because you never know what you are going to run into,” Gray said. “I mean, let’s say you just have your regular raid mission and you run into something you were not expecting. That could affect your mental health later on.”

Both Gray and Taylor believe it is hard to tell whether or not the ROTC prepares cadets well enough mentally to fight in the war, mainly because they were in the core first.

“I think the ROTC is more or less training you for the military,” Gray said. “They are not training you for the war per say, but they are preparing you to become an officer instead.”

Most cadets join the ROTC fresh out of high school, and Gray and Taylor can give them some sort of insight on what to expect in the military and the memories that can be made.

“You’re going to miss everybody once you are done serving,” said Gray of those who served with him. “That’s for sure.”

Contact ROTC reporter Megan Dunick at [email protected].