HARWICH – The efforts of students in John Dickson’s eighth grade civics class at Monomoy Regional High School have been rewarded with the approval of legislation that honors and recognizes veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The students in the Project Citizen program pushed for legislation to have the Route 137 bridge over Route 6 designated the “Hidden Wounds Memorial Bridge.” Next month there will be a dedication ceremony for the bridge at the high school.
Project Citizen is a national program in which a class takes on an issue, researches it, develops a class policy and seeks to get the policy enacted. The project got underway two years ago, Dickson said, with the class choosing to pursue the naming of the bridge.
“The goal was to honor not a specific veteran, but all the veterans who have come home and have suffered from PTSD, TBI (traumatic brain injury) and other lingering effects of their service, many tragically succumbing to these impacts,” Dickson said in an email.
“The class felt that this would be a meaningful way to acknowledge the sacrifice and suffering of the many veterans whose injuries are not apparent,” he said.
After a number of drafts and discussions with veterans, the students proposed naming the structure over Route 6, also known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, as the Hidden Wounds Memorial Bridge.
The students met with Rob Mador of Bridges For the Fallen, a local organization that has worked to honor fallen veterans with the naming of bridges throughout the country. Mador and his organization were instrumental in the naming of the Route 124 bridge over Route 6 the Ralph Burns Memorial Bridge.
Mador assisted the students with their march through the legislative process. State Representatives Sarah Peake, D- Provincetown, and Tim Whalen, R-Brewster, co-sponsored the bill. Selectmen endorsed the initiative and Gov. Charlie Baker signed it into law last January.
The law reads: “The bridge on state highway Route 137 spanning highway Route 6 in the town of Harwich shall be designated and known as the Hidden Wounds Memorial Bridge in honor and recognition of all those who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety, and other unseen ailments, especially as a result of service in the military, or public safety occupations. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation shall erect and maintain suitable markers bearing this designation in compliance with the standards of the department.”
The students who were involved in this Project Citizen program were Liam Jordan, Abigail Gates, Jake Vagenas, Camden Jolibois, Sussannah Brown, and Trey Nunes.
When conducting their research, the students found that PTSD rates among veterans run between 11 and 33 percent and include flashbacks of traumatic events. The students learned that PTSD veterans avoid places and things that remind them of war. Images of death, violence and injuries related to war can instill paranoia, the students found in doing research.
The ceremony will feature a variety of speakers with personal experience and expertise, Dickson said. It will be held on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. at the athletic field behind Monomoy Regional High School.