Bruce Reges has found that laughter can be the best medicine. The veteran and Ph.D. student suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He recently joined nine other veterans on a trip to Guatemala with Dr. Patch Adams, (yes, the one made famous by Robin Williams). The trip was a pilot program to help veterans by helping others. They dressed as clowns and visited hospitals and orphanages.
The film named Clownvets premieres March 7 in San Jose, California. Click to watch the Clownvets trailer with Dr. Patch Adams
“The experience helped me to get in touch with my emotions again,” said Reges. “In war, it is necessary to shut down to stay alive. You don’t get close to someone because they may be gone tomorrow.”
Reges is no stranger to performing. “My mother was a teacher and used puppets to reach children. I helped her with the shows. In high school, I did a stint with Bozo the Clown on television in my hometown of Grand Rapids.”
While serving in the United States Army in Iraq, he used puppets to bridge a gap between the children and soldiers. “The kids were frightened. The puppets allowed the children to see us as people. In the end, the puppets helped the children open up and let us know where bombs were hidden. The puppets saved lives. That is how Peace Through Puppets started.”
Currently a Ph.D. student in Educational Studies, he was encouraged to enroll at Union by his VA doctor and master’s degree advisor, both of whom graduated from Union.
His dissertation/committee chair Dr. Beryl Watnick, has encouraged him every step of the way. “Bruce entered his Ph.D. program with some trepidation about whether he was up to the challenge of such a rigorous and scholarly journey,” says Dr. Watnick. “Over the semesters, I have witnessed his growth as a doctoral student as well as his desire to contribute to scholarly conversations on the state of our current educational system. Bruce’s military service, along with his work as an innovative educator, deepen his passion for his continued evolution as an educational leader and scholar.”
Reges hopes to make a positive impact in education. “I hope I can be a force for social justice and more male involvement in elementary school instruction. Too many times, I have worked in elementary schools where I was literally the only male there on a consistent basis. Everyone including the support staff were all females. I feel a balance is needed of positive male influence.”
Even though there is not a cure for PTSD, Reges is hopeful. He has a daughter he loves spending time with, continues to spread joy through Peace Through Puppets, and looks forward to receiving his Ph.D. “Laughter may not be a panacea, but it sure can’t hurt.”