Army veteran reflects on his path from military to college
Old man on campus. That’s how I feel sometimes. College students look different than they did when I first attempted school. Evolution has left its mark on the younger generation with the addition of a new appendage, the cell phone.
Classrooms are no longer the distraction-free sanctuary I remember. Facebook on laptops, texting during lectures — actually, I’m impressed with this generation’s ability to multitask at all times. If I could text, tweet, type, listen to an ever-inserted earbud, and still make good grades, then maybe I would do it, too.
But this isn’t what I want to discuss. My story is perhaps a bit different than my fellow veterans. I joined the army infantry at the ripe old age of 27. I had tried and failed at school a few times; this wasn’t due to an intellectual incapacity for learning, but rather, it stemmed from a life rife with addiction. I didn’t join for flag, freedom or furthering the despotic business interests of the privileged elite. I joined to get sober . . . or at least try.
By enlisting, there were two things I hoped would happen: 1) It was my sincerest wish that the mandatory sobriety during deployment would be a catalyst for personal change, and 2) I thought that a brush with death in combat would give me a new appreciation for life. And guess what? It worked.
Granted, it didn’t work immediately. And it certainly didn’t resemble any kind of plan I could have ever created, but that decision, coupled with the wonderful staff and program of Jaywalker in Carbondale, changed my entire life. When you read this I will have 23 months of sobriety.
So, in essence, my choice to join the army saved my life. I remember the noncommissioned officer at the Military Entrance Processing Station asking me if I wanted to invest a little of my own money (once on active duty) in an incentive program that would increase the total of my GI Bill allowance, should I choose to use it. At the time, college was so far off my radar that I almost passed it up. Instead, I said, “Sure, why not.” Looking back, I wish I could high-five the typically shortsighted, former reflection of myself.
Today, as a student of Colorado Mountain College, I see my life unfolding before me in a fantastic procession of galvanizing opportunities and yet-to-be-realized dreams. Furthermore, the professors express a genuine concern in students “making it to the next level.” This applies to the staff as well. Counselor Craig Farnum, in particular, has been instrumental in helping me envision my future in academia.
Armed with the discipline bestowed upon me by the military and filled with the deepest desire to follow this budding, new path to fruition, the future that is slowly coming into focus is dazzlingly more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.
Ryan Lanham will graduate next semester with an Associate of Arts degree in Spanish and psychology. He was in active duty in the U.S. Army from 2007 to 2010.
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