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Passion for Service Guides a Veteran to a Life in Social Work

Passion for Service Guides a Veteran to a Life in Social Work

Published: 11/9/2016

The spark that lights the flame of passion for a life in social work can come from many sources. For Taylor Katt, who is studying social work in the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS), his sparks came from a mission trip to Mexico, studying to be a minister, serving as a military policeman in Iraq, and love. 

Katt’s path to pursuing a life in social work took a few twists and turns after he graduated from Campbell County High school in Alexandria, Kentucky in 2009. His first stop was Matehuala, Mexico on a mission trip with a friend, working for a local doctor providing basic medical services to the community. 

Two months into his stay in Mexico, he received an email letting him know his grandfather had died of acute leukemia so he returned home to Kentucky. Shortly after his grandfather’s funeral, he got accepted into Cincinnati Christian University (CCU), enrolling in the general ministry program, but that pursuit didn’t last long. 

"Within a week at CCU, I switched to the psychology program, where the professor had a heart for ministry through the route of psychology,” Katt says. "That was very interesting to me because I had always thought that if you want to do ministry, it’s a vocation and an occupational desire.”

The idea of studying psychology at CCU quickly clashed with the reality of being able to afford it, so in January of 2010, Katt visited an Army National Guard recruiting office in Northern Kentucky hoping to continue to find a way to serve his fellow man while saving money for college. 

"It’s always been my desire to help people out no matter what I was going to do,” Katt says. "I’m physically fit, I’m not Albert Einstein, so I’m not going to invent anything in my mind. Whether it’s labor, whether it’s protecting people in some fashion, serving people was always the mindset.”

Katt chose to enlist with the military police (MP), finding that more interesting than his other option of being a bulldozer operator. Nine weeks of basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri was followed by 14 weeks of MP school. 

"About three or four weeks before graduating from MP school, I caught wind that our unit was going to be deployed,” Katt says. "My thought process was I wouldn’t have joined the military if I wasn’t going to deploy. Joining the National Guard wasn’t just for the benefit of earning money for college, it was more about the service.”

In June of 2011, his unit, the 940th Military Police Company based in Walton, Kentucky, was deployed to Iraq. Katt says their work at Victory Base Camp near the Baghdad International Airport was mostly routine.

"We did very little law and order military policing,” Katt says. "What we did was mostly gate security, and searching folks. There were local truck drivers who did deliveries to the base at times, and every now and then we would rotate where they were staying and search their trailers and trucks just to keep them on their toes and make sure they didn’t get comfortable being on base.”

However, part of that daily routine was the enemy launching mortars at their position.

"We were very blessed, my unit didn’t get shot at, but we did regularly get mortared,” he says. "You’re sitting on base and all of the sudden you hear this alarm go off and that means people are lobbing explosives over your fence. Usually we deflected them one way or another, we had some pretty cool machinery that was able to do that. There were a couple of times where the camp next to us had a couple of buildings get blown up, but no one was in them thankfully.” 

Katt’s reaction to the daily mortaring is thoughtful and gives some insight into his passion for social work.
"My thought process was if we’re going to respond to these people we need to better understand why they’re doing it,” Katt says. "What’s going on with them? Why is this guy choosing to mortar us? We had full legal authority to respond with lethal force, why is he taking this risk?” 

His National Guard unit returned to the United States in December of 2011 and after spending about a year working for a couple of logistics companies in the Tristate, Katt took a full-time inactive duty position with the National Guard while taking some online classes to keep his social work dream alive.

CAHS played a role in the next chapter in his journey when in December 2014, a friend from high school who was in the Speech Language Pathology (SLP) Program in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders introduced him to another SLP student, Megan. Katt says they knew right away they were a good match and they got married in May 2016. 

Megan Katt is a speech language pathologist with Cincinnati Public Schools, working at Rockdale Elementary in Avondale. Taylor Katt hopes to finish his bachelor of social work degree in CAHS in the fall of 2017 and start work on his master of social work in the fall of 2018.  

"There are a couple of things that have been in my heart lately,” Katt says. "My grandmother had dementia and Alzheimer’s as have some other people in my life, and I’m really interested not just with the person who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, but also the caregivers. There’s a lot of research going on these days with the people who are the caregivers not getting the care they need and taking care of themselves.”

Katt is also passionate about working with veterans and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Ordinary folks fascinate me,” Katt says. "To me, that’s the coolest thing about the military. As extraordinary as the military is, it’s full of very ordinary people. That’s what’s so intriguing about social work for me—it’s just understanding people’s story, how they got to where they are and where they’re headed.”

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Student demonstrating pose to patient in Mexico

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