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Retired military chaplain on campus to help veterans with academic, personal issues
March 29, 2013
Military veterans who are students or potential students at the Community College of Rhode Island can now turn to a veteran’s mentor to help them transition to academic life.
Retired Lt. Col. Lee Hardgrove served for 25 years as a chaplain in the Army Reserve and had active duty deployments to Kabul, Afghanistan and Fort Dix in New Jersey. He is available to speak with CCRI’s student veterans about academic and personal issues.
As a military chaplain, Hardgrove tended to the spiritual needs of soldiers but also provided plenty of secular mentoring and counseling, and it is this kind of service that he will provide at CCRI.
“It’s the counseling side of my chaplaincy experience that I will be utilizing,” he said, “not the religious side.”
As a longtime military veteran who has been deployed in the war on terror, Hardgrove believes that he can give student veterans someone to talk to who understands what they have been through. He will also serve as their liaison with the college and the colleges’ PACE (Pathways to Advance Career Education) program, referring them to academic tutors, financial aid officers or anyone else who may be able to help them with specific problems.
He also will give career advice. “A problem that veterans face is that a lot of them did things in the military that really don’t transfer easily to civilian life,” Hardgrove said. “That’s one of the things I really want to discuss with them.”
Hardgrove said he will use his personal/professional contacts and the resources of PACE to help student veterans find someone to talk to who works in a career they are interested in. Student veterans can find a working professional to job shadow or a student, preferably a military veteran, who is in a related academic program at CCRI, Rhode Island College or the University of Rhode Island.
Hardgrove said he was interested in military service since he was a boy, but also felt a call to the ministry. He became an ordained United Methodist minister and was the pastor of a church while serving in the U.S. Army Reserve as a chaplain. He was called to active duty in 2004.
“It’s very interesting serving as a chaplain because you deal with not just your own denomination, but all the different denominations, shoulder to shoulder with other chaplains,” he said.
Military chaplains provide spiritual guidance for people of all faiths. “Sometimes a chaplain is not available for a person of a particular faith but you try to do what you can for them,” Hardgrove said.
They also provide secular counseling. They give suicide prevention briefings and help soldiers deal with the stress of combat, long separations from their families, and the complexities of returning to a civilian lifestyle and workplace.
“There are lots of stresses [for people in the military] since the war on terror started,” Hardgrove said. “At Fort Dix, I helped soldiers who were going over to and coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. We were trying to get them to transition as best they could from being in Afghanistan on Tuesday and back home with their families on the following Tuesday.”
Hardgrove called his career “Very rewarding; stressful, but rewarding.”
Hardgrove also has some experience in education. He holds a degree in American history from American University in Washington, D.C., and has taught high school social studies and college-level Western civilization courses. He is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at Rhode Island College.
This spring, Hardgrove is available on Wednesdays at the Knight Campus in Warwick, Thursday mornings at Providence’s Liston Campus and Thursday afternoons at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln. He hopes to add hours for the Newport County Campus soon.
He can be reached by email, which is his best point of contact, or by phone at 401-825-2281.