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Man With a Mission

by Monica Smith

Jul 24, 2019, 9:00 AM.

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Richard Casper will be the keynote speaker at the October 2nd-3rd  innovedCon 2019.

Richard Casper’s story is a journey in healing. A decorated military verteran when he came home to Bloomington, IL, he had to relearn how to live and find ways to deal with his injuries, posttraumatic stress and depression. He had changed.

One thing he believed in for sure was the power of education for veterans in the transition to civilian life—in specific, with music and art. For this reason, he co-founded CreatiVets, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans heal through free music and art programs. He wants people to know veterans are regular individuals, but he wants instructors and instructional designers, in particular, to recognize the specific needs of veterans who are students.

“We just want to be treated like every other student, but we are unique in our stories,” he said.

Casper will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming innovedCon 2019 conference held October 2nd to 3rd in Miami, FL.  The conference, powered by FIU Online, is dedicated to instructional design and will explore new ways to approach and think about the ever-evolving online learning experience.

A Marine’s Journey

In his youth, Casper was the happy-go-lucky class clown, but he wanted a higher purpose after high school, so he enlisted in the Marines. His early military career put him on top of the world, he recounted. Casper was commissioned to personally guard the president. This was an honor— only the top 1% of soldiers are selected for this duty.

“I was excited,” Casper recalled as he described his conversations and dealings with President George W. Bush back in those days. Then 9-11 happened. The attack on America motivated him. He felt called to enter the theater of war, so he traded Camp David for the volatile and soon-to-be war-torn Iraq.

War and Loss

While in Iraq, a fellow soldier and friend named Luke was shot and died right beside Casper. Over the duration of his tour in Iraq, Casper survived four different IED explosions and even though he was extremely lucky, he sustained left-traumatic brain injuries from three of those incidents.

“I didn’t know how to live with myself anymore,” said Casper who dealt with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach day in and day out. At home in Bloomington, simply driving in town gave him anxiety as he passed pieces of garbage on the side of the highway. His PTS clouded his thinking and fear welled up. He realized later, garbage on an Iraqi road usually hid explosives. He couldn’t shake the anxiety and became reclusive and almost suicidal. He had to do something with his new chance at life and education seemed like the next logical step in returning to civilian life.

Art Provided the Voice

Casper debated whether or not to enroll in school. He was worried about being older and having experienced so much—no one would understand him. Reluctantly, he enrolled in a community college and selected art as “cop-out, easy degree.” It was in his art class, however, he found his voice. One of his first art pieces would provide the turning point—a chalk drawing about Luke’s story, and also his own. 

“After I drew it, I was excited. I felt they understood me for just a second,” explained Casper about his fellow classmate’s reactions. “I think art is just a stepping stone.”

Education Heals

Education allowed Casper to get over the “hump”—he credits it as a huge part of his healing process. Through his art, he could express the turmoil within his soul. More importantly, he could let go. Because of this, in 2013, he co-founded CreatiVets.

A man with a mission, Casper believes in the power of education for veterans and online learning can offer the access they need. He insists well-designed online education can help change a warrior brain into an artist brain. Currently, the warrior-turned-artist is creating curriculum for an elective college-level veterans art class.

“We can help others,” he stated and explained that in or outside of the military, you always have battle buddy. “Art is an option for healing,” he said, and explained that education and the people who provide it can help fill the “outside battle buddy” role.

For more information about innovedCon 2019, visit https://www.innovedcon.com.

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