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Saint Leo Veterans Explain What They Learned from Military Service

Military service brings forth many life lessons. Learn what several military veterans in the Saint Leo University community learned most from serving their country.

A graphic that says 'Life Lessons from Military Service' and has an American flag

Military service can come in a variety of forms. Some individuals only serve for a year or two, while others make it a lifelong journey. Some serve stateside and others serve multiple deployments all over the world.

However, the one commonality among military veterans is that they all walk away with life lessons from their experience of serving their nation. We recently asked a wide range of military veterans who are members of the Saint Leo University community to explain what they learned from their military service.

“I learned all about comradery, discipline, and structure. I also learned organizational skills, how to manage my finances, and how to work together with my fellow sailors like a well-oiled machine to be productive.”

- Masciel Irizarry, a Saint Leo student in the MBA in Healthcare Management program, served in the Navy from 2010 to 2014 as an E5

“The biggest thing I learned while serving in the military was having patience and strength to handle my job accordingly. Also, I learned how to balance my time between doing my job and handling other tasks. The military made me a better woman as a soldier and a better person, to take pride in myself, and to look at things in a better perspective.”

- Cyretha Wiley, a student in Saint Leo’s Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice degree program, was an Army staff sergeant during her 22-year military service in both the Army and Army Reserves

“Every great outcome in life depends on a positive mindset.”

- Ernest “Luke” McClees, Jr., director of Saint Leo University’s Office of Military Affairs and Services, served from 1995 to 1999 in the Marine Corps as an E5

“Some of my most significant experiences in the Navy involved traveling to different countries and learning to communicate and interact with people from different cultures.”

- Dr. Pamela Lee, director of Saint Leo’s MBA program and associate professor of management since 2011, was a lieutenant commander in the Navy and served from 1989 to 1998

“I learned how to work together as part of a team. I also learned how to set goals in life and achieve them with or without help from anyone.”

- Beverly Jones, a master’s in human services administration student at Saint Leo, was an Army staff sergeant whose military service spanned 30 years and four days

“I learned about diversity, teamwork, and how to adapt and overcome challenges.”

- John Gans, an MBA in Human Resource Management graduate student, was an Army sergeant first class E7 who worked in human resources and served for over two decades

“I learned discipline, respect for all, integrity, the power of teamwork, community, and chain of command and the need for it. Overall, it was a life altering experience. It taught me how rewarding it can be when you put others first.”

- Pam Blair, who has worked for Saint Leo for over 23 years and is currently the executive assistant to the vice president of Academic Affairs, served in the Army from 1982 to 1988 and was a chaplain’s assistant as both a corporal and specialist

“I learned to overcome obstacles and keep pushing forward no matter what happens. I also learned lots of leadership skills.”

- Christopher Starnes, a Doctor of Criminal Justice degree program student at Saint Leo University,, worked as an Army Ranger and was a sergeant E5 during his four-year military service in the early 1990s before joining the Florida National Guard

“I learned a lot about people and why they do the things they do. I also learned so much about tactical thinking and how to operate within a system. One of the biggest things I gained was an appreciation for life and how good we have it in the U.S. compared to other places in the world.”

- Dr. Angela Manos, an assistant professor of criminal justice in Saint Leo University’s Center for Online Learning, spent 32 years serving in the Army as a military police officer among other roles

“Expect the unexpected. As an example, after six months on the line during the Vietnam War, we were finally heading home. The day before we were to head for San Diego, we received word that we were headed to the line for another nearly three months of work. The ship and air wing I was part of received the Presidential Unit Citation. Our RA5C Vigilante Squadron was the only Vigilante Squadron to ever receive this designation. I am proud to have been a part of this effort.”

- John Mouw, who is the station manager and engineer for Saint Leo’s WLSL 92.7 FM, served from 1969 to 1975 and was a Navy petty officer third class and worked as an aviation electronics technician

“Some of the greatest things I learned in the military were critical thinking skills, project management, and problem solving. The military harped and drilled in us resiliency training and the importance of self-care, but most of us never took it seriously. It wasn’t until after I got medically discharged for PTSD from the military that all that training began to make sense. If I would have taken the training more seriously and learned to care for myself better while serving, my PTSD would not have been as severe as it was, and I 100 percent would still be in today. However, that training has helped me grow in unimaginable ways, and I’ve been able to heal and overcome my military trauma, making me more resilient today than ever before.”

- Brianna Holman, a student in Saint Leo’s Bachelor of Social Work degree program, served as a medic as an E4 senior airman in the Air Force from 2013 to 2018

#SaintLeoLovesVeterans

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