Students enriched by military service
Haljit Basuljevic – Contributor
The Veterans Services on campus serves to welcome and accommodate student veterans, several of which said their experience in the Armed Forces and their studentship has enriched their lives.
“Boot camp was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my life,” said Gabriel Maldonado, “It kind of set me up for like ‘nothing is hard anymore’.”
Stationed as a marine in Yuma, Arizona, Maldonado worked as a project leader for harrier jump jets, aircrafts marked for their ability to hover like a helicopter. His responsibilities, he said, included keeping logs of the aircraft components, conducting destructions and repairs, and reporting any parts required for further inspection.
Prior to the military, Maldonado characterized himself as not having much ambition and lacking a sufficient work ethic. He attributed his training at boot camp to breaking him down to his elements and purging himself of these bad habits.
Maldonado’s training in mental fortitude was not just limited to bootcamp. During the financial meltdown US families experienced a decade ago, Maldonado said he lost his job. Without notifying anyone, he spent every day shedding the necessary weight needed for proper recruitment and signed up for the marines.
Another student veteran, Bryant Torres, was stationed as a member of the air force for six years. He said he also felt the effects of the economic crisis.
With his parents out of work, Torres suspended his university studies and was recruited into the air force until he planned to return when the economy stabilized. Although his parents were a bit distressed at his leaving, he said they were nonetheless happy that they would finally be replenished for their financial troubles.
Torres said his main mission was to monitor the ebb and flow of information within the Air Force networks.
From the UK to South Korea, Torres said he was fortunate to have traveled overseas, which was unprecedented for him. He said that exploring South Korea’s political climate more intimately gave him a different perspective than he had previously adopted.
“Talking to the people and getting to know them gave me a whole new outlook to their situation,” said Torres, “Prior to the military, I was more anti-war, but now seeing to what was going on overseas, it showed me what the military was doing over there, and I’d say I’m in a more neutral standpoint now.”
Reza Noori, a student veteran, spoke about his experience as an American interpreter, working in Afghanistan. He said the history for American interpreters on foreign soil has certainly not been the most welcoming.
Despite the risk involved, Noori said interpreting between high ranking officers of America and Afghanistan provided an outlasting experience of him, and that while he was there, he was granted the opportunity to write upon the internal affairs for the Afghan National Police.
Since then, his services for working for the US government has allowed him to seek refuge and obtain a Special Immigrant Visa, where he is now able to pursue his studies here at SCSU.
Bryant Torres, student veteran, has not only found himself pursuing a bachelor’s in computer science but has also acquired a love for traveling. When asked as to what country he saw himself settling in, he answered that Ireland had impressed him the most.
“I loved how beautiful the scenery is. The people are super-friendly,” Torres said, “Actually, next semester I’ll be trying to study in Cork, the second biggest city in Ireland.”
“I plan to graduate this December with an interdisciplinary study in computer science and business management,” said Reza Noori, “then planning to find a job then hopefully start my graduate studies.”
“I want to graduate and maybe start my own business as an event planner,” said Maldonado, “I kind of got the bug for party planning in the military. I was the vice president for the program there on top of doing my job and volunteering for other things on base.”
Photo Credit: August Pelliccio