Veteran Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Mielcarek,’13

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 5:27 PM PST

Ryan Mielcarek,’13, is a Navy veteran and a double alumnus of a Jesuit education. Ryan attended Marquette as an undergraduate student and came to Seattle University to get his Masters in Public Administration . Ryan especially appreciated the Jesuit value of care for the whole person, a value he demonstrates daily through his work supporting homeless veterans and sharing their stories through StoryCorps.

According to their website, StoryCorps aims to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. Once recorded the stories are archived in the Library of Congress and broadcast weekly on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Ryan came across StoryCorps while at the Chicago Cultural Center where he learned about their Military Voices initiative, which focuses on capturing the stories of homeless and at risk military veterans through the annual event, The Seattle Stand Down. The Seattle Stand Down aims to move beyond numbers and put a face to veterans by providing them support resources and services such as employment, housing, legal, medical, dental and more, while creating a sense of community.

Ryan was quick to get involved, becoming the volunteer coordinator team lead for the Seattle Stand Down and he began looking for a community partner who could help support their efforts to collect veteran stories.

“As luck would have it, former MPA colleague Janet Pope had recently assumed the Executive Director Role at Compass Housing Alliance.  I reached out to her immediately.  Her willingness to partner and share resources allowed this project to happen,” Ryan said.

Compass Housing Alliance supported the program, by hosting two days of interviews with veterans whose stories are rarely told, including women, Native Americans and veterans who’ve overcome multiple adversities in their lives.  They provided interview space, recruited veterans from their programs, supplied food and utilized their social media channels for the effort.

With Compass Housing Alliance’s assistance, the Seattle Stand Down was able to record the stories of Native American and Native Alaskan veterans at the Chief Seattle Club. This included the Suquamish Warriors and Elders who shared stories of Suquamish veterans who served in Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars. Each veteran who shared their story was given a recording of the interview, allowing these important tribal histories to be captured for generations to come. 

Ryan says that the Seattle Stand Down remains committed to helping veterans and their families going through housing instability do so with dignity and the knowledge that they are not alone.  The Seattle University veteran community is at the forefront of this effort, including Rebecca Murch,’15, Jaime Yslas, ’12,’14,  Derrek Mapes, Bradley Brown, ’13, and Sam Barrett, who kicked off the first Seattle Stand Down in 2011.  The Seattle University Veterans Committee and Catherine Hinrichsen provided vital support to the program.  “The altruistic and holistic values of service before self that are instilled in Jesuit education at Seattle University are carrying on through its veteran community,” he shared.   

Ryan has a message for all readers. “Always assume good intent.  This goes for veterans and those without military experience. By removing assumptions and offering a smile we can start breaking down barriers between us by sharing our stories with each other.  You may be surprised at what you find out about a veteran, about yourself.   Had Janet not graciously hosted the MVI recordings I would not have been able to hear these words of wisdom from a homeless veteran.  ‘A soldier’s final path should be the path of peace.’  Let’s all go on that path together as one community.”

Upcoming Engagement Opportunities for Veterans

As part of our Veteran’s Week programming, we extend a special invitation to veterans to these events and networking opportunity.

Albers Speaker Series & Alumni Reception
Thursday, November 13
Speaker Series: 5:30 p.m. | Pigott Auditorium
Reception: 6:30-8:00 p.m. | Rolfe Community Room | Admissions and Alumni Building

Speaker Series Panel featuring:

Major General Stephen Lanza, base commander of Joint Base Lewis-McCord 

Harvey Kanter, President of Blue Nile 

Melanie Dressel, President of Columbia Bank

RSVP for Reception

Men’s Basketball Home Opener and Alumni Pre-Game Rally
Friday, November 14, 2014

Veterans will be honored at this game and will receive free tickets. Simply go to Will Call to get your ticket.

Pre-Game Rally
6 p.m.
Club Live | KeyArena 

Admission to the rally is free with a game ticket. 

Seattle U Men vs. Texas State
7 p.m.

Seattle Stand Down
December 11 & 12
Seattle Central Community College

Those interested in participating, donating or volunteering are invited to attend the next installment of the Seattle Stand Down.  Visit their website or follow them on Facebook to stay up to date.