Service to the Community
It is a personal goal of mine to give back to the community throughout my life and career, and since exiting the military in 2006, I’ve used my military experience to advocate for veterans in academia, and I’ve used my skills as an educator and writer to help veterans find platforms through which to express themselves. The narrative below explains the parts of my life which preceded and ran parallel to my lives as a soldier and a scholar.
Military Service (2002-2006)
I enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 2002 and was honorably discharged as a sergeant in November 2006. I completed Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, becoming an 88M, or motor transport operator. American troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, just as I finished my last week of training. And, after reporting to my first duty station in Mannheim, Germany, I joined the 51st Transportation Company “Steel Knights” at Camp Dogwood in Iraq a month later. My first tour of duty lasted from May 2003 to February 2004 and my duties included transporting cargo and providing convoy security for civilian drivers. You’ve heard of drivers for big-shot generals or The President, but my claim to fame was as “The Platoon Sergeant’s” driver in my first deployment. The 51st Trans. Co. was a unit comprised of PLS trucks. Meeting convoys in southern Iraq, we would deliver supplies to bases located within the Sunni Triangle, including Camp Anaconda, Camp Taji, Baghdad International Airport, and Tikrit. At the end of our deployment, the “Steel Knights” returned home to Turley Barracks in Mannheim, Germany where we trained for our next rotation.
In January 2005, just eight and a half months after our first deployment, we returned to Iraq again, this time serving in the volatile Al Anbar Province in western Iraq. In the second deployment, the “Steel Knights” primarily drove up-armored Humvees, escorting a mix of Iraqi, Jordanian, and American civilian contractors throughout the region. Our company was headquartered at Camp Al Taqaddum, though my platoon rotated on and off of different bases, including Camp Al Asad and Camp Duke, where we were attached to the 57th Gun Truck Company (10th Mountain Division). In my second deployment, I transitioned from “driver” to “gunner,” operating an M-240 Bravo Machine Gun at the front of our platoon-led convoys for the bulk of the deployment. We returned to Germany in December 2005.
My last eleven months of service in Germany were spent becoming an Advanced Motor Vehicle Instructor, Combat Lifesaver, and serving as a squad leader for the Mannheim community’s quick reaction force.
I’ve written a few short stories and poems about my time in the Army. They can be found on my Publications page.
Also, I’ve been keeping an eye out for articles and books in case others who were in my unit are looking for some evidence of their service, and I’ve found a few:
- Inigo, Jessica. Three companies of 3rd Corps Support Command shipping out again.
- Krane, Jim. Truckers on the Front Lines in Iraq War.
- Guardia, Mike. US Army and Marine Corps MRAPs: Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles.
- Killblane, Richard E. Convoy Ambush Case Studies.
- Owen, Micah. Put The Truck in Gear and Drive.
If you have any other links send them my way.
EKU VETS (2008-2010)
After finishing my Associate’s Degree at Somerset Community College, I transferred to Eastern Kentucky University to work on my Bachelor’s Degree in literature. At the time, the number of student veterans on campus was growing radically. However, improvements in veteran services were not keeping up. In 2008, as an undergraduate, I became the Founding President of EKU VETS (Veterans Education and Transition Support). Leading a group of like-minded volunteers, I lobbied campus officials for improved services and a veteran resource center, efforts which led to the hiring of a permanent Director of Veterans Affairs, a study center for veterans, and the acclaimed “Operation Veteran Success” recruitment and retention program designed by Dr. Brett Morris. Under my leadership, EKU VETS also coordinated a peer-to-peer mentorship program, a small book exchange, equestrian and aquatic therapy outreaches, mindfulness workshops, Memorial Day and Veterans Day services, and formed partnerships with established veterans service organizations, later becoming a chapter of Student Veterans of America. EKU would be named “Best for Vets” by Military Times Magazine on several occasions in the following years. In 2013, First Lady Michelle Obama gave the spring commencement address largely in recognition of EKU’s commitment to military veterans.
EKU Veterans Studies Minor and Certificate Program (2010-2012)
In 2010, as a Master’s student and graduate teaching assistant, I was tasked with designing and implementing a “College Success” course for “at-risk” student veterans. I taught study skills, critical thinking, and brought in speakers to better prepare student veterans for coursework and to plug them into VA services and local philanthropic organizations. Several of my student veterans transitioned from “at-risk” students to “Honors” students, and research proved that the course increased graduation rates. Many of my students became published authors during their first year of college, publishing works in The Journal of Military Experience (JME), a collection of prose, poetry, artwork, and scholarship that I founded, one which has since earned national awards from Student Veterans of America and The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.
In 2011, I approached the new Director of Veterans Affairs with the idea of a “Veterans Studies Program.” My student veterans chose to publish their works in the JME to educate their peers, professors, and loved ones about the nature of military service. I reasoned that academia could respond in-kind, so I brought together a group of professors and administrators from throughout the campus community, proposing the idea of a Veterans Studies Minor and Certificate Program. It was the first program of its kind, one which introduced non-veterans to military service, allowed veterans to contextualize their experiences, and brought both groups together in scholarly analysis of veterans’ issues. As a testament to my dedication to the cause of serving veterans, I self-funded the second year of my PhD work at the University of Kentucky so that I could design the program curriculum, create its introductory and capstone courses, prepare the courses for implementation in both in-person and online environments, and teach. I built the program from the ground up and largely without pay. Today, “Veterans Studies” remains a viable and popular addition to the EKU curriculum, one which has received coverage from national news media outlets such as Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine, Inside Higher Ed, and The National Council of Teachers of English.
Military Experience & the Arts (2011-2015)
Military Experience & the Arts (MEA) began informally with the publication of prose, poetry and artwork in the JME. This publication was well-received, garnering national attention as a peer-to-peer model for publishing the creative works of military veterans. What began as a campus-based initiative quickly grew, and after winning a grant from the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, the editorial board of the JME, along with dozens of new volunteers and supporters, organized the first “Military Experience and the Arts” symposium in July 2012. Out of the event, which gave 130 veterans and their families three days of lodging, food, public performances, roundtables, lectures, and all-expenses paid workshops, sprung a community dedicated to providing veterans with access to publishing venues and free editorial advice. During my tenure as President and Editor-In-Chief, MEA established its 501(C)(3) non-profit status and published more than 500 works of fiction, non-fiction, artwork, poetry, and research in eight edited collections. In 2014, MEA launched several genre-specific publications based upon the model which made the JME popular, and in Spring 2015 MEA hosted its second national symposium at Cameron University in Lawton, OK. MEA continues to host online support groups, publish volumes of veteran literature and artwork, and the organization has been discussed in The New York Times, American Legion Magazine, and Stars & Stripes.
Other Positions and Service
I’ve done a lot of “side-jobs” and been involved with a number of amazing programs and initiatives over the years. The list below details some of that work.
Director. University Programs Symposium Planning Committee. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. 25 Apr. 2013.
Coordinator / Co-Leader. ArtReach: Project America Workshop. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. 8 Mar. 2013.
Senior Project Mentor. Student: Haley Conn. Model High School. Richmond, KY. Spring 2013.
Member. Pat Tillman Military Scholars Selection Committee. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. 15 Feb. 2013.
Volunteer Coordinator. Vet-2-Vet Sponsorship Program. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Spring 2013.
Director. Veterans Studies Program Undergraduate Research Symposium. Eastern Kentucky U. 7 Dec. 2012.
Coordinator. Combat Paper Project. Eastern Kentucky U. 14-16 Oct. 2012.
Session Chair. “Technology and Trauma in Modern War Writing.” Midwest Modern Language Association. Cincinnati, OH. 10 Oct. 2012.
Director. Military Experience and the Arts Symposium. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. 4-7 Jul. 2012.
Member. Pat Tillman Military Scholars Selection Committee. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. 9 Apr. 2012.
Session Chair. “No Man Left Behind: Homosocial Masculine Obligation in American War Literature.” Northeast Modern Language Association. St. John Fisher College. Rochester, NY. 17 Mar. 2012.
Member. 2012 English Graduate Student Organization (EGSO) Conference Planning Committee. U of Kentucky. Lexington, KY. Spring 2012.
Interviewer. Louis B. Nunn Center for Oral History. U of Kentucky. Lexington, KY. Fall 2011-12.
Vice President. English Graduate Student Organization. U of Kentucky. Lexington, KY. Fall 2011-Spring 2012.
Counselor / Mentor. “Planning to Win” Summer Camp for High School Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Summer 2010-11.
Member. Association of Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education National Conference Organization and Planning Committee. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Summer 2011.
Mentor. Tenth Annual Undergraduate Presentation Showcase. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Spring 2011.
Volunteer. AFTEC: Horses for Heroes Equestrian Therapy. Richmond, KY. Spring 2011.
Founder / Member. Veterans Studies Program Exploratory Committee. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Fall 2010-Spring 2011.
Alternate Representative. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Committee. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Summer 2010-Spring 2011.
Service Officer / VA Claims Representative. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Richmond, KY. Fall 2010-Fall 2013.
Vice President. The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Spring 2010-11.
Founder / President / Alumni Officer. Eastern Kentucky University Veterans Education and Transition Support (EKU VETS). Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Spring 2009-2011.
Vice-Chair. Non-Traditional Student Council (Student Government Association). Eastern Kentucky U. Richmond, KY. Fall 2008-Spring 2009.