CLASS OF 2002: AMANDA (MANDEE) JUZA ✯ The Safest Place in the World

Some might call it divine intervention: the day in 2012 when Terry Richard walked through the doors of the Vet Center in Portland, Ore.—and into a support group led by Amanda (Mandee) Juza ’02. But whatever it was, it transformed his life. “Mandee saves people,” he says. “She brings them peace.”

Mandee Juza ’02 served two tours in Iraq. (Courtesy of Mandee Juza ’02.)

Mandee Juza ’02 served two tours in Iraq. (Courtesy of Mandee Juza ’02.)

Terry is a Vietnam veteran for whom peace has not come easily. His combat-related PTSD—which didn’t surface until decades after his service—had been causing anger, bouts of panic, and other symptoms. He knew he needed help. But he didn’t quite know what do to about it.

“I’d tried going to the center once before,” he recalls. “But I couldn’t get out of the car. I literally would rather have been anywhere else—even back in Vietnam. So I turned around and went home.”

This does not surprise Mandee. “We say that it takes ten times the amount of courage to walk in the door of a Vet Center than to go into combat,” she says. And she would know.

A senior at Norwich when 9/11 happened, Mandee received an Army commission after graduation, and served two tours of duty in Iraq—the first as a platoon commander with the 96th Transportation Company of the 13th COSCOM out of Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2003. Beginning in February 2005, she served as the 96th’s operations officer. Hauling heavy equipment from the port of Kuwait to sites throughout Iraq, she regularly traveled “IED Alley”—arguably the deadliest road in the country with a lethally explosive 10-mile stretch. She witnessed awful things. She also knew how it felt to keep them bottled up.

“I believe my own experience helps me to be a better counselor,” she says, crediting her Norwich-fostered leadership skills and emphasis on service.

Mandee, second from left, following her 2002 graduation. (Courtesy of Mandee Juza ’02.)

Mandee, second from left, following her 2002 graduation. (Courtesy of Mandee Juza ’02.)

It is worth noting that Mandee developed empathy for combat veterans long before her service in Iraq. Growing up in Blue River, Ore. (population 849), she observed firsthand the struggles and successes of her best friend’s father, whom she calls “my second dad.”

“He served in Vietnam and suffered from PTSD,” Mandee says. “I saw how the Vet Center in Eugene helped him understand what was happening to him and how to cope.” This experience influenced her career path, beginning with her decision to attend Norwich as a psychology major. Today, she is a master’s-level licensed clinical social worker facilitating group and individual sessions for combat veterans and survivors of military sexual trauma.

Terry—part of a “mixed-era” group of veterans of conflicts spanning World War II through the present—says that participants trust Mandee implicitly. In fact, knowing that Mandee is “one of us” helped convince him to give the Vet Center another go.

“We know how incredibly difficult it is to seek help,” Mandee explains. “We understand what it takes to make our groups feel safe—because we know what we ourselves need to feel safe.”

At the first of the year, Mandee accepted a position as the director of the Central Oregon Vet Center in Bend. The move is bittersweet. She will miss Terry and the other vets in Portland, but she embraces the opportunity to lead an organization responsible for transforming the lives of veterans. “It’s an honor, and a great privilege, that my job is to walk beside these veterans as they integrate their past and present selves,” says Mandee. “I can think of nothing else I would rather do.” – Jane Dunbar

Editor’s note: Terry Richard hails from a Norwich legacy family: father William Harold Richard ’30, uncle Herbert W. Tutherly ’46, and great uncle Stanley C. Wilson, namesake of Wilson Hall.

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