Whether she is lying face down in the trenches or jumping into the back of a humvee, Dr. Kathy Platoni ’74, has certainly proven that she is just one of the gang. Platoni, a Colonel in the U.S. Army, has indisputably committed herself to a higher purpose – and has never waivered about her decision to do so.
“It was at William Smith College over 35 years ago that I learned the significance of devoting yourself to something much greater than yourself,” she said prior to returning to campus last month to give a public lecture titled “War Head: The Psychological Toll of War – Lessons Learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Her higher purpose includes taking care of her fellow soldiers.
“Nothing has ever risen to that and nothing will ever surpass that.”
Working along the front line, Platoni saves lives by tending to those whose wounds are not inflicted by bullets or bombs, but are just as severe. This is where the line between psychologist and soldier has blurred. “For all of us, the primary goal is to save lives and save souls,” said Platoni. As an expert in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she attempts to thwart flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disorders, panic attacks and other symptoms of PTSD. “Even the heartiest soul can fall victim to PTSD,” said Platoni. “Nobody comes back unscathed.”
Although the mental anguish is incomprehensible unless you have experienced it yourself, Platoni invited Sgt. Ryan Vallery to offer a glimpse. Using powerful and chilling photographs, Vallery provided a true testimony. As limbless bodies rolled across the screen, Vallery stated, “Hopefully, you will now begin to understand the type of trauma that your soldiers see on a reoccurring basis,” he said to a reverent audience.
Platoni added, “One thing that doesn't make the news is what incredible humanitarians American soldiers are.”
It is because she is one of those incredible humanitarians, with an altruistic character and steadfast devotion to her fellow soldiers that she was presented with the William Smith Alumnae Association’s Achievement Award following her lecture.
The Alumna Achievement Award is the William Smith College Alumnae Association's highest honor. It is awarded to an alumna who, by reason of outstanding accomplishments in her particular business, profession or community service, has brought honor and distinction to her alma mater.