Veterans Day Tribute: "What I Learned During My Time In Uniform"
Members of the Saint Leo University community understand the unique perspectives of military students because many have also served.
Recognized as one of America's largest and most committed providers of higher education to the U.S. military, Saint Leo has been serving the education needs of servicemembers, veterans and their families on military bases and worldwide through online education since 1973.
The university community's understanding of the needs of military students has been cultivated by years of experience – as well as by numerous faculty, staff and administrators who also have served.
Saint Leo University President Dr. William J. Lennox Jr. is a retired U.S. Army three-star lieutenant general with a 35-year distinguished military career that included five years as the superintendent of the United States Military Academy.
Pamela Martis, director of the university's Office of Military Affairs and Services, is a retired U.S. Army colonel with 28 years of service. After graduation from the U.S. Military Academy, she served 4½ years in the artillery before transferring to the Military Police Corps.
Academic Advisor CasSandra Williams served in the Navy for 13 years. Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Nycole Elliott served in the Army for 10 years and Student Advisor Steve Hirschbein in the Navy for four years.
From the top levels of administration to faculty members and staff throughout the university, veterans working at Saint Leo understand that the lessons learned while in uniform are enduring and shape the unique perspectives of students who are still serving or who have served.
Lessons about grit. Perseverance. Gratitude. Self-confidence. Teamwork.
Here, a few veterans from Saint Leo share some of those lessons learned while in uniform.
Happy Veterans Days to all military members of the Saint Leo community.
My life completely changed the day I joined the U.S. Army. After serving in the military for 10 years, I realize how much of an impact my military experience has had in my civilian life. A few things stuck with me, one being the greatest secret to success: gratitude. Coming up in the ranks, I had to learn that if I wanted to see change, I had to change the way I thought. I had a platoon sergeant who would remind me that no one likes an entitled person. I can honestly say I appreciate the little things in life such as getting home in time for dinner. Lastly, I learned the importance of learning new things quickly and adapting to uncomfortable situations. I had to learn to leave my comfort zone on a regular basis. I realize now that this was a necessary evil to have personal growth.
At the time I entered the U.S. Army, I was 19 years of age and had no idea what I wanted to do in life. My father had passed away and I was sort of a lost soul trying to find my way. I was active duty in the Army for three years, from 1983 to 1986, and learned many life lessons such as having pride, honor, respect, and courage. When I took the oath, I swore to protect my country from all enemies both foreign and domestic, but there was something else. I learned to be selfless. I found that I loved my country more than I ever imagined and would do whatever it took to protect it. To this day, this holds true with my family, friends, and loved ones. I will always put them first and protect them until the day I die.
I was honorable discharged as an E-4 Aviation Electronics Technician from the United States Navy. I will never forget the brotherhood that I was a part of as well as the many life lessons that came from serving. One lesson that stands out is self-confidence built through perseverance and commitment. Through my Aircrew and Rescue Swimmer School training, we were pushed to see who would break and who would endure. I watched many of whom I was certain were stronger than me drop out of training as I mentally pushed myself to go beyond my physical expectations. I came out stronger, physically and mentally, with the lesson to never see potential limitations with a ceiling, but rather as an opportunity to exceed my expectations.
While I was never a full-time Officer in the Marine Corps, I did earn the rank of Cadet Lt. Col. in a USMC JROTC program. So while I'm not technically a veteran, I did learn from my experience with the Corps that leadership most definitely involves "the ability to influence others to achieve a common goal," and this demands that leaders set and maintain noble goals.
The military taught me that there was "no substitute for victory." It taught me the value of "grit," getting the job done no matter how difficult it was. It also taught me that the job had to be done within your values or it wasn't worth doing. Finally, the Army it taught me the value of teamwork: every person counted, and all had to contribute.
First and foremost, I learned about values and teamwork – two things that gave me courage in all the operations I was involved in. Whether you are working on a military installation, conducting a nation-building deployment or a peace-keeping operation, or fighting a war, common values must control everyone's actions and responses. You must believe that the person standing next to you is willing to do whatever it takes to protect you and that no one will leave you on a battlefield. Whether in peace time or in war, values and teamwork also get you through the loss of a military member. Another lesson I learned is to always do the right thing no matter how hard it maybe. We have all learned that failure to do the right thing will only lead to another failure.
The most important lesson I learned from my time in military service is that it is always about the people in any organization. The military taught me the meaning of true leadership, the value of including the skills and talent of every member of the team, and the necessity to ensure that the team met the challenge successfully—no mission too great. It was the teamwork and support we gave each other that would get us to mission accomplishment, not individual efforts alone.
The military also reinforced to me the value of education and lifelong learning, and to appreciate the small things in life as a part of our basic freedoms that sometimes can be taken for granted. Being in the military taught me so many things. It taught me the value of tolerance and equality, to give back with an attitude of service and gratitude, to show empathy and compassion for your fellow man, to show courage when you might be fearful in a given situation, to draw from the strength of the team always and from your beliefs and most importantly, to never quit.
Being part of the military family and service to our country are among the highest honors of my life.
Serving in the U.S. Navy was a privilege, and I enjoyed the years that I served and the people that I met along the way. There were many important life lessons that I took away from my time serving in the military. I think the one that has stayed with me 15 years later is to always be on time. Not only to be on time but to arrive 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time. I still make sure that I am always on time and even a little early for all appointments and scheduled events.
Joining the Navy was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I was attending college at the time and had a 1-year old son. Luckily, my parents were able to assist while I deployed. During my time in the military, I also enrolled at Saint Leo and earned my bachelor's degree in business administration. It was a lot of work to juggle, between my work and son's schedules, but being in the Navy taught me to set realistic goals to be able to achieve them. I learned that I could accomplish anything I was determined to complete, including an MBA. Now as I work with Saint Leo students to help them achieve their goals, I tell them to not let any negative factors stop them from completing their dreams and be willing to sacrifice to achieve the final outcome of satisfaction of completing their degree.
Jurea WilliamsU.S. Army Veteran Enrollment CounselorCenter for Online Learning
I joined the Army when I was only 18 years old, and the lessons I learned such as determination and integrity were life changing. Even today, I find myself reflecting back to those days and applying what I learned in my everyday life. As a civilian, when I encounter a challenge, I remember the challenges I faced during my military career and know that if I overcame them back then, I can do it today. Never give up. Face your fears and you will be surprised with what you can accomplish.
Image credits: Niyazz on Shutterstock and courtesy Saint Leo faculty and staff