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Graduating veteran plans to become social worker to continue helping recovering veterans

Chris Short and other graduates participate in the Fall 2019 Commencement Ceremony.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate is continuing his education to become a social worker so that he can help other veterans who are facing recovery and mental health issues. 

John “Chris” Short of Little Rock graduated Dec. 14 with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree and a minor in psychology. The Bachelor of Applied Science program is designed for working adults who have completed 40 hours of technical military credits.

Short started college at UA Little Rock in 2001. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Short wanted to serve his country and joined the U.S. Army in 2002. He completed basic training and infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, and then was stationed in Hawaii until he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2004.

“I got promoted to team leader, and right after I got promoted I got caught in an IED on March 29, 2005,” Short said. “I lost my leg below the knee and had a traumatic brain injury. There was a time in my life when I had to learn how to walk and read and write again. I spent the next two years at Walter Reed Medical Center recovering.”

Short retired from the military in 2007 as an E5 sergeant and a recipient of the Purple Heart, two Army Commendation Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and a host of additional commendations. He moved to Fayetteville, where he enrolled at the University of Arkansas atFayetteville for a few years and also worked in construction and as a fly fishing guide. 

During this time, Short suffered from untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and recalls that his life took some “dark turns” before he sought treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in 2014 and got on the road to recovery. It was after he began working at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System that he decided to finish his college degree. 

“My boss, Dr. Estella Morris, who is the director of the healthcare for homeless veterans program, kept asking me why I hadn’t reenrolled in school,” Short said. “She is a big advocate for the social work program at UA Little Rock. She thought I would really be able to help people by pursuing my education. After I started as a peer support specialist in 2016, me going back to school inspired a lot of other veterans.”

As a certified peer support specialist, Short works with veterans who are recovering from a variety of issues, including PTSD, addiction, and depression.  

“I love my job. I help people move their life in a positive direction and recover from what they are struggling with,” Short said. “I get to work with veterans and people in recovery, and I am passionate about that because I am a veteran. It helps that I am able to relate to what many of the veterans have gone through. Watching people get into recovery and make positive changes in their lives is a very powerful experience. To me, there’s nothing better.” 

Now that he’s graduated, Short plans to apply to UA Little Rock’s graduate program in social work. He wants to become a social worker so he can continue helping veterans.

“I’d like to do what I do now but with a license,” Short said. “Continuing education is very important to me. I didn’t value it when I was younger, but today I recognize how important education is. When I had a TBI, I forgot so much of what I learned in school. When I went back to college, it was a healing process for me.”

He also hopes that finishing college has inspired his 10-year-old daughter.

“It’s been almost 20 years since I started here in 2001,” Short said. “It’s been an awesome experience that my daughter Caroline has seen me finish college in the last few years,” Short said. “She sees that education is important to me. It’s not something I’m just saying. It’s something she’s seeing me do.”