UofL student reflects on trip to Cuba to help military service members
By Alicia Kelso
When Jeremy Dodson officially graduates May 11, he’ll carry with him far more experience than what was gained from the classroom. The Communications major from Crestwood, Kentucky, spent part of February in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of a volunteer team from the Kentucky Boys State and the American Legion.
The team helped write claims for service members stationed at the U.S. Naval Station so that they’re better prepared for retirement. They fielded more than 200 questions and claims, a 58% increase from last year.
The group also appeared on the Radio GTMO show, participated in networking events and gave presentations to incoming high school seniors. This was the fifth trip to Guantanamo Bay for the volunteers. Dodson, who has been involved in the Kentucky Boys State program since 2014 and now serves as an assistant counselor, was asked to join the delegation in December by Executive Director Pete Trzop.
Trzop has made quite an impact on Dodson. In fact, Dodson credits him, as well as John Beach, Chris Gootee and Mark Kennedy, with inspiring him to stay in college after struggling over whether or not to drop out.
Dodson’s segment on the Radio GTMO show was focused on this specific decision.
“By coming back (to the Kentucky Boys State program) as a junior counselor and making connections with various staff members, I decided to stay in college,” he said.
Dodson’s favorite part about the trip was being able to give back to the active service members stationed there by helping them file their claims with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I chose to pursue veterans benefits because I feel that they are not appreciated as much as they should be,” Dodson said. “They do not receive the benefits they deserve after all they do for us and our country.”
Dodson also appreciated the team-building opportunities that took place during the trip.
“I was able to get to know (the team) and connect with them on a more personal level,” Dodson said. “We were able to do a lot of positive things while we were down here.”
Dodson’s post-graduate plans include pursuing employment in the communications field with LG&E. He believes his education at UofL has prepared him well for such a path forward.
“Thanks to Dr. Selene Phillips, I have really been able to hone in on my news writing skills. I have seen improvements in my writing both inside and outside of class,” Dodson said. “By taking video communication class with Dr. Ralph Merkel, I was able to hone my video editing skills. Thanks to these skills I learned at UofL, I was successful in obtaining an internship with the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development.”
His education may have indeed prepared him for such a career, but his involvement outside of the classroom has prepared him for even bigger things.
“Whether you attend the program or do service work, Kentucky Boys State and the American Legion are organizations that change lives,” Dodson said. “They both have certainly changed mine.”