Counseling soldiers’ families during trying times

WIU academic adviser returns from military deployment

by Jared Dye, University Relations student writer

picture of Ronald Pettigrew

WIU academic adviser and military chaplain Ronald Pettigrew

Ronald Pettigrew has been involved in the military all his life, has been to more than 35 countries through his services, but he was recently deployed for the first time as a Western Illinois University employee. He is now back at work in Macomb after being assigned to the headquarters of the Marine Corps, located near Washington, D.C., for two months.

Because his father was in the Navy, he said, Pettigrew has been part of the military all his life. His military service began when he joined the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Southern California, immediately following high school. Following his graduation from college, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy, and has had consistent military presence ever since, with 11 years active duty and 11 years as a drilling reservist.

A large portion of his military service has involved duty at sea or overseas. He has served eight years of sea duty for the Navy and five years on deployed assignments overseas. Prior to his most recent deployment as a WIU employee, he was deployed overseas for a year as a WIU graduate student.

Pettigrew is currently based out of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, (S.C.). He serves as Navy Chaplain and Commanding Officer of a Marine Expeditionary Religious Unit that provides direct support to military recruits and recruiters within the Eastern Recruiting Region.

During his most recent deployment, working on behalf of the Chaplain of the Marine Corps, he was assigned to provide pastoral counseling and assistance to individuals and families working through grief.

His responsibilities during his recent assignment were directly related to his specialty, working with people and providing assistance and grief counseling. He was assigned to the headquarters of the Marine Corps, located near Washington, D.C., part of the Naval Annex to the Pentagon, for two months. Working as the Chaplain of the Marine Corps, he was assigned to provide pastoral counseling and assistance to individuals and families working through grief.

“During my time away, I was responsible for providing support for all U.S. military casualties killed in action overseas. As part of the Navy/Marine Corps Casualty Liaison Team located within Dover Mortuary Affairs Office at Dover Air Force Base, I provided grief and support counseling for over 180 family members, and escorts for 18 casualties,” Pettigrew said.

In his civilian life, Pettigrew is an academic adviser for Western’s Board of Trustees Bachelor of Arts (BOT/BA) degree program. The BOT/BA program is a degree program geared towards non-traditional students, including veterans and full-time workers, giving them the opportunity to earn an undergraduate degree that compliments their educational needs and lifestyles. The general education program  allows students to take classes of interest while completing their degree.

Pettigrew received his own undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California. After five years of active duty service as Surface Welfare Officer, he resigned his commission as a line officer to begin his studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to become a Naval Chaplain. After serving as a pastor in the Quad Cities for four years and working as a Reserve chaplain, he returned to active duty and became a Navy chaplain before returning to the reserves to complete his studies and earn his Masters of Science in College Student Personnel at WIU.

While Pettigrew was deployed, other advisers in the department helped by taking over his work load. They also kept in contact through e-mail and phone calls. The staff also checked on Pettigrew and his family and maintained their well-established relationship. WIU has been recognized in the past for supporting employees in the military, including receiving “Patriotic Employer” certificates and being recognized by the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in St. Louis in coordinating work relief for Army Reserves Spc. Wayne Quesenberry, an admissions and records specialist at Western.

Pettigrew said that the most difficult part of coming back is trying to find time to slow down, after being involved with military work which involves constant tasks and thinking about what needs to be done. Outside of work, he is trying to get off of the military schedule and find time to relax and spend with his family. His oldest son, Josh Jefferson, graduated from WIU this May, with plans of possibly going into the military as well.

“Although I came back right into the busy registering period, all has gone well, and the student and staff support has been amazing,” Pettigrew said. “Without their support I know I would not have been able to make it, and make the transition back and continue my military service. The University is very supportive and military friendly.”


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