Office of Veteran Success Events
Veterans Week 2020
This year, join the USF Office of Veteran Success in celebrating Veteran's Day with stories from veteran students, staff, and faculty recounting the unique reasons why they chose to join the military and how they continue to serve today. Help us honor these outstanding USF veterans and take a moment to reflect on their stories of service and sacrifice for our great nation:
Thomas Nelson, United States Marine Corps
78-year old United States Marine Corps veteran, Thomas Nelson, currently attends USF as an Adult Education major. Thomas was one of the seven veterans interviewed for the We March As ONE video premiered on Veterans Day this year.
You can watch Thomas' full interview with stories and photos here: https://youtu.be/D9dvFeTedkI
Simone Scott, United States Army
United States Army veteran Simone Scott is currently a staff member at the USF Tampa campus. Simone was one of the seven veterans interviewed for the We March As ONE video premiered on Veterans Day this year.
You can watch Simone's full interview with photos and stories here: https://youtu.be/PGU3kQUZXxE
📷 Laura Lyon
Daniel Williams, United States Army
“My name is Daniel Williams and I was born in Chicago, Illinois. My family moved to
Tennessee when I was young to aid my great grandmother with her health. I spent my
childhood in Cookeville, Tennessee, and that is where I found my love for the military.
My first look into the Military stems back to my grandfather’s stories of when he
was in the US Navy. At the time, there were stories of bravery and adventure. Soon
they would turn into goals and achievements of my own.
While in high school, I realized that I was not the smartest person academically, and I was not the most athletic either. I did, however, have a passion for the military. I was raised with a saying from my grandfather that still sticks with me today, “there is a place for everything, and everything has a place”. I realized my place was in the United States military. I had a knack for order and for following directions. I soon joined the Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC). My current rank is First Lieutenant, promotable in the United States Army National Guard with fourteen years of continuous service to include one deployment.
I enlisted in the United States Army National Guard in September of 2006 and joined the Military Police Corp (31B). I attended Basic Training (BCT) and Advanced Initial Training (AIT) in December of 2007. My first duty station was HHT RTS 278TH Armored Calvary Unit located in Lebanon, Tn. I served at that unit from 2007-2009 until my unit was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) to Baghdad, Iraq. I served as the fourth truck team leader and rear driver. We returned in 2010 and I was then promoted to sergeant. I decided that same year that I would attend college at Tennessee Technological University. In 2013, I contracted into the ROTC program with a commission date of December 2016. During my time in the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) I was reassigned to Platoon Leader DET 1 TRP H SPT SQND 278th ACR until I was commissioned in December of 2016. In January 2017, I accepted my commission into the 1-153rd Financial Management Support Detachment (FMSD) located in St. Augustine. I served as the Executive Officer and Disbursing Officer for that detachment. In February 2020, I received my new assignment at the Joint Forces Headquarters. I am currently the Resource Management Officer for the United States Property & Fiscal Office.”
Peter Scott, United States Army
“I chose to serve in the United States Army, because I wanted a solid stepping off point into a world of travel and a dynamic career in healthcare. I joined as a Health Care Specialist in 2013, which gave me a great knowledgeable foundation, as well as proving to myself, that I can handle the stresses of taking care of a person at their most vulnerable state. Shortly into my career I pursued further medical training, becoming a Critical Care Flight Paramedic. Training took roughly a year in San Antonio, Texas, which was followed by 3 years of working with an Aeromedical Evacuation Unit (DUSTOFF) out of California. During my service I also was able to complete a Bachelor's Degree in Health Care Administration, and gain the experience and confidence to solidify my next career step which is becoming a Registered Nurse. I served for 7 years Active Duty, and achieved a lot of what I set out to and more during my time.
I am thankful for my decision to join the Army at such an early age because it has given me a tremendous amount of opportunities and privileges' that keep my life moving in a positive direction. After my education with USF, my focus will be on beginning my nursing career, supporting my Wife through her Doctorate Degree, and starting our family. As day-to-day life becomes less stressful after school, I will participate in some volunteering opportunities either through the American Red Cross, or FEMA, to support my local community through a medical means. I will likely not pursue any additional military service in my future, because as my life moves forward, I appreciate more and more, the stability and freedoms that civilian life has to offer.”
Evelyn Curry, United States Air Force
“I chose to serve in the military because I've always had a desire to live a selfless life. I wanted to live a fulfilling life wherein the benefits would far exceed my lifetime. At the age of 18, the best way for me to do this was to serve in the United States military. I can still recall the feelings of anxiety (what did I just do?) and honor (I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve others) that I experienced immediately following the commencement ceremony for basic training. In personal moments of reflection, I still recall that day as a reminder that my life is filled with purpose and that humility is one of my greatest achievements. I also desired to be a surgeon and I knew that my family could not bear the financial burden associated with my aspirations.
Although my decision to join the military would not only allow me to serve others during a time of war, it would allow me to continue to do so once I fulfilled my dream of saving lives in the medical profession. Even though my dreams of becoming a surgeon were not part of God's plan for my life, I am still serving others through a non-profit organization I founded (The Token of Hope Foundation). Our foundation serves those in need through a variety of services. Our largest service is a mobile food pantry that operates in Central IL and serves anywhere from 60-100 people each month.”
Samuel Gore, United States Navy
“I chose to serve in the Navy because both my Dad and maternal Grandfather served in the Navy. I knew I could serve the country while seeing the world and saving money for college after I got out of the military. I was offered the nuclear training program and opted for submarines because it sounded exciting. I attended bootcamp and nuke school in Orlando, about 100 miles from my home in Tampa. Determined to see the world outside of Florida I asked for west coast and Pacific posts. I attended prototype training in Idaho and welding school in San Diego. I was assigned to the USS Olympia SSN 717 out of Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor and Hawaii were a great experience and I was able to explore the tropical islands falling in love with the island life. Being on the sub was not always easy, however, the shipmates had become like brothers, a bond that we share to this day.
After I graduate, I am planning to go back into football coaching. I look at coaching as an opportunity to affect young people's lives in the for the future. It is a platform that is a human development project masquerading as a sports team. I draw on the relationships I had in the Navy as examples of how I can be an effective coach. I had several CPO’s along the way that helped me become a better person, none more so than the late Master Chief Timothy Seilkop, my LCPO on the Oly. Between him and the leading first petty officer Anthony Maestas, who also retired as a MMCM, they invested in me as a young man in my early twenties, bringing out qualities and confidence I did not know I had. I hope to honor the legacy both Seilkop and Maestas have created in me, one that Master Chief Seilkop probably never knew, and I hope that Maestas will realize, as I try to influence young men as they did with me.”
Catherine Hernandez, United States Air Force
“I chose to serve in the United States Air Force because I enjoy experiencing new cultures and joining the military afforded me job security during a time when hospitals had hiring freezes for nurses. My father was also in the Navy during my entire childhood, and though leaving good friends every three years was hard, moving to new places fed my thirst for adventure. I made friends for life as both a military child and as an adult. They say that your closest friends are your "chosen family," and that's especially true, when you have to move away from extended family. Our good neighbors become friends and in turn, they become our family. The amazing opportunity to serve our great country was a no-brainer, for me.
I continue to serve by volunteering at my sons' schools for field trips, food drives, and health screenings. I plan to continue to serve by becoming more involved with local food banks and soup kitchens, after I graduate. Ensuring that no one goes hungry is a passion of mine, and I never realized how important it was to be able to put nourishing food on the table, until after I had kids of my own.”
Barry McDowell, United States Army
“My name is Barry McDowell and I am the Assistant Director of Student Accessibility Services on the St. Petersburg Campus. My military experience began as an undergraduate at Gettysburg College in the Army ROTC program. I graduated in 1967 commissioned as an Infantry Second Lieutenant. Obviously, at that time, things were pretty dicey in Vietnam, particularly as an Infantry officer; however, if I attended graduate school, I would be deferred from active duty. A no-brainer! I went to Indiana University and received an M.A. in College Student Personnel in 1969. That two-year deferment was a huge blessing for which I am forever grateful. From March, 1969 when I reported for active duty, until March, 1970, I was stationed at Ft. Benning, Ft. Knox, Ft. Bragg, and Ft. Bliss assigned to the Military Assistance Command unit. We were trained to learn the Vietnamese culture and language so as to advise the South Vietnamese Army and provide military aid. Upon deployment to Vietnam, I spent one year as an Intelligence Officer in Bien Hoa, a city about 25 miles from Saigon. During that time, I had the fortunate job of working closely with Vietnamese civilians in several capacities while also socializing with their families, learning their culture, and appreciating their quest for lives free from constant war. I returned home in March, 1971, overjoyed at being safe and ready to begin a career in higher education. Since then, I have visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. several times and each time I am overcome with emotion and feeling overwhelmed with indebtedness to all those whose names are inscribed on the granite wall.
As I reflect on my military service, I feel that I am a much better person for the humbling experience of serving my country and seeing first- hand how lucky we are to live in this country. Also, as a person who has worked with young college students for almost 40 years, I believe strongly that all of our young adults would benefit enormously by providing some type of national service to our country. The attached picture illustrates Christmas Day, 1970 sitting in my “hooch” surrounded by Christmas presents that were sent by my family!”
Baby Jordan, United States Navy
“I decided to join the military because I have always been set on helping others and giving back. In high school I was a student trainer and a CAN and I wanted to go to college, but refused to go in debt over it, so I decided to join the Navy.
Two years after getting out, the Navy still blesses me, by allowing me to be a personal trainer (for fun), and go to school to be a nurse all for free, while being able to independently support myself and my future family.”
Michael Freed, United States Army
“My family has a long history on both my mother and father's side of serving in the military. I joined the army both to make my family proud and because I thought it was the best way to get my life back on track after dropping out of high school. In the long term, it absolutely was, but military life was rough and often rougher than it needed to be. I'm proud of the work I did in Bosnia and Serbia, but back home it destroyed my marriage.
Now I am the founder of a company called Maka Social. We're determined to help serviceman, servicewomen, veterans, and their families improve their relationships and mental health through our app that helps to create tighter social bonds, friendships, and community faster than ever before.”
Michael Ross, United States Army/Air Force
“My name is Michael Ross and I am an employee at USF and work as a Postal Service Representative and would like to share this pic with USF. I’m both a US Army and Air Force Veteran. It was the Best education that a Brooklyn kid could have with discipline on a large scale. I was in the Army from 1976-1983 and in the Air Force Reserves from 2000-2004. Thank you all for your service.”
Jason Miller, United States Army
"My last day in duty uniform was July 8, 2016. I am grateful to have served alongside so many warriors, heroes, and friends. They became my family. Another officer once said appropriately, 'They are the best 1 percent this country produces. Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any one of them. But they are the very best this country produces, and they volunteer to protect our country when there’s nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required.'
Why did I choose to serve? I served because it was my calling…I served because it was my duty to my country…I served because I loved my family…and I served because of the men and women who served with me. I miss the Army."
Marissa Montilva, United States Air Force
“Hello! I am A1C Montilva and I joined the Air Force after I graduated college because I struggled to find a full time job and decided joining the military would be the best route to gain the experience I needed. It is also an honor to serve my country and I am grateful for all the experiences and lessons it has given me so far. The military has given me the opportunity to not depend on anyone, reduce my debt, and go back to school to study a new field that has my interest. I plan to finish out my active duty contract and switch to the reserves to pursue the USF nursing program and see where life takes me from there.”
Gregory Mings, United States Marine Corps
“I joined because I wanted to be of service to my country. I joined a year after the
terrorist attacks of September 11th and wanted to do my part. I hope that I can continue
serving people and my community as a physical therapist.”
Gisela Kennedy, United States Army
“I can’t quite pinpoint why I decided to serve in the United States Army, but I can say that, as the daughter of immigrant parents and a first generation American, our home was patriotic. My parents raised me to believe that I had every opportunity because I was born in this great country. When there was an opportunity in high school to join ROTC in the hopes of possibly getting a scholarship, that made me very excited as I did not want to burden my parents with the cost of college. I was selected to receive a four-year scholarship and attended Florida State University. When I graduated from Florida State in 2003, I commissioned as a second Lieutenant, branched Transportation Corps. I served from 2003 until 2007 completing my officer basic school in Virginia Beach, Virginia and my first duty assignment was Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. I served in the 725th main support battalion and deployed with the 325th forward support battalion in support of the 25th Infantry Division (light) in April of 2004-2005 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Throughout my deployment, my focus was on convoy operations and supply chain management as I coordinated the transport of rations from the port of Karachi Pakistan throughout southern Afghanistan as our movement control officer. Upon return from deployment, I served as a company XO and later the brigade S-1 (or human resource officer) for over 3000 soldiers.
Currently, I serve as the Administrative Officer/Medical Management Specialist for the Bay Pines VA healthcare system’s department of medicine. In this role, I provide oversight and supervision of 11 administrative direct reports and lead operations for over 180 clinical specialty providers. One of the things I enjoy most about working at VHA is my ability to reach out to my former brothers and sisters in arms to support them navigate all the aspects of VA including the Veterans Healthcare Administration (where I work) and the Veterans Benefits Administration and also the Veterans Cemetery Administration. Connecting people with the benefits available to them is my favorite part of the job. Proud to have served. Hooah!”
Dino Geracci, United States Navy
“The reason I chose to join the United States military was due to my families long standing service to this country. As a young boy, I knew I wanted to do nothing else other than serve my country, as every generation of men in my family before have done since the start of this country. I first was in the delayed entry program for the United States Marine Corps from my junior through senior year in high school. I had all accelerated scores and was ready to start my journey. Unfortunately, 9/11 occurred during my senior year and affected my entry into the USMC. I then went on to being a civilian worker for almost five years. There was always something missing, so at the age of 23 I joined the United States Navy. There I served for 10 years until I had a career ending back injury. I was medically retired with full honors.
After moving back home here to St. Petersburg, FL. I was inspired by my VA counselor to start my new path to helping others. I plan on continuing to serve through my community outreach, mentorship, and when I finally graduate with my degrees, I will begin working for the VA as a Rehabilitation Counselor assisting other disabled Veterans integrate back into the civilian workforce.”
Christopher Donovan, United States Army
“I chose to serve my country, and currently continue to do so, to: expand my worldly knowledge, grant myself every advantage that being a veteran entitles to you, and also set an example for those who do, or may one day, seek my advice. It has been a widely beneficial opportunity for me and has improved the lives of myself as well as the lives of my family and friends. As I finish the last semesters of my bachelor's degree, I intend to continue my education at USF Med and commission as a US Naval Flight Surgeon.”
Kacy Cartmell, United States Air Force
“I joined the military to follow in my father’s footsteps. I grew up in a military family and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I also wanted to serve my country that I love so dearly. I’m currently in the Air Force Reserves and I will continue to serve for as long as I possibly can. I have had the time of my life serving and want to continue to help the country and my community.”
Robert Bland, United States Air Force veteran
“I joined the USAF Sept 1998 and began my career at Keesler AFB as an RN in the ICU. In 2004, I graduated with an MSN focused in Nurse Anesthesiology from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. I deployed several times as independent Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologist (CRNA), left USAF in 2009 and continued to serve in the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. In 2016, I left the VA for a Critical Access Hospital on the Oregon coast, serving the underserved and elderly population in a rural community. After completing my graduate fellowship in Simulation-Based Academic Fellowship in Pain Management at the University of South Florida in 2019, I am currently a doctoral candidate at the University of South Florida and will graduate December 2020 with my DNP. I have been married to my wife of 17 years, Tukta Bland, have three daughters: Ashley R. Bland, Minnie N. Sakulsakpinit and Nattida B. Vetch, and one grandson: London G. Rountree.”
Ebone Johnson, United States Army
“My name is Ebonē Johnson and I am from Birmingham, AL. On October 20, 2010, I joined the Army National Guard as a 35F, All-Source Intelligence Analyst. I joined the military as an option to pay for my college education; however, it turned out to be so much more for me. After my freshman year at The University of Alabama, I could no longer afford to pay for school, so I dropped out. I knew that I wanted to complete my degree; joining became a way for me to accomplish that goal.
I took my ASVAB in September 2010, signed my contract a month later, and shipped to BCT thirteen days later. I attended BCT at Ft. Jackson, SC and AIT at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. After training, I joined my unit, the 31st CRBNE BDE. A few months after getting to my unit, I was placed on full-time status. It was a great opportunity for me so early in my career and I was proud. While on orders for nearly three years, I learned and networked so much. When my orders ended, I stayed in the Guard, but returned to school.
I graduated from The University of Alabama with my Bachelor of Art in Criminal Justice and minor in International Studies. Two weeks after graduating, I accepted a position with a contracting company supporting the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as a Geospatial Analyst in Arlington, VA. I also supported contracts with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). After moving to Virginia, I transferred to the Army Reserves to the 3100th Strategic Intelligence Group to finish my contact. A month ago, I accepted a federal civilian position at NGA as a Cartographer in the Maritime Safety Office.
Everything that I learned during my eight years of service prepared me for where I am now. I am forever grateful that I decided to serve. Next month I will be graduating from the University of South Florida with my Master of Science in Intelligence Studies and concentration in Strategic Intelligence. Go Bulls!!”
Konstantin Nefedov, United States Air Force
“My inspiration to join United States armed forces was the event that took place on September 11, 2001. Many men and women lost their lives that day. I am planning on continuing serving as an active duty Air Force nurse. The events that took place in this picture are very special to me. The location was Forward Operating Base (FOB) Ghazni, Afghanistan. I just received Polish Bronze star from the president of Poland. It was awarded for coordination, medical and linguistic support of 34 wounded polish soldiers during a mass-casualty malicious event that took place during my tour at FOB Ghazni. Our Forward Surgical Team (FST) that included combination of American, Polish, and Ukrainian medical staff, continuously cared for 34 patients during 48 hours with limited space and medical resources. One of the nurses, Maj Denise Lane, through her selfless and courageous acts throughout these 48 hours, inspired me to become an Air Force nurse.”
George Kurn, United States Navy
“I choose to serve in the United States military due to its diversity and its passion to pursue freedom for all. Joining the U.S Navy was the best decision of my life. The military has opened so many doors for me and my family. I have traveled around the world and met people who I now consider family. I will continue to serve my country as a nurse corps officer and provide the best quality of care to my brothers and sisters in arms and their families.”
Janiel Grant, United States Air Force
“I chose to serve in the military to gain experience after high school prior to going to college. I wanted to be able to say I experienced something that not a lot of people get the chance to. I continue served by being active in my community in various Organizations.”
Holly Johnson, United States Marine Corps
“I chose to join the military for the adventure. My life had been planned for me since I was little. I was a musician from the time I could speak. I started with singing, then piano, flute, guitar, and eventually a few brass instruments. I was supposed to grow up to be a high school band director and lead a marching band. I made it to college in 2006 with a full ride as a music education major. I was quite sought after, such so that I was packed full of scholarships. In fact, I was getting back a hefty amount each semester. But I was starting to dream for something bigger. I met with a Marine recruiter who came to my college's band hall looking for Marine musicians. He found one.
I joined in early 2007. I reached the Fleet mid-2008 and started my time as a Marine musician, but my unit deployed to Iraq only a few months later in January 2009. I did not bring my flute with me. No band playing in the sandbox. It was all training, convoys, gate guarding and patrolling. I spent time in Fallujah, Camp Baharia, Al Asad, Ramadi, and Al Taqaddum. As a member of Lioness, or the Female Engagement Team, I was attached with only one other female to a grunt unit that did missions outside the wire. It was our job to assist with female locals during military or political endeavors for the respect of their culture. It was and still is considered inappropriate for males to interact with the female locals. I returned home late 2009 after assisting in packing up a few fobs for the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I returned to the band and finished two enlistments before being medically separated. It was not necessarily my intention to be done with the Marines so soon. I would have liked to try a B-Billet or 2, preferably the Marine Security Guard abroad. But during a Marine martial arts black belt training session in the middle of the woods at 5 am, my hidden opponent used a whole tree log as their weapon of opportunity and severely injured my spine. Rest is history.
I left the military mid 2014 with an Honorable Discharge (under medical conditions). I enjoyed my time while active duty. I felt like I was making a difference and carried a sense of self pride and worth daily. Since I've been out, though, I have come to enjoy the mildly stressful pleasures of civilian life (like eating cake, and not needing to working out, or finding a job to dress nice in, but knowing I'm not under a government contract to stay employed). I've drastically changed my life goals, and now plan to graduate with an engineering degree in Computer Science in the summer 2021. I have a full house and full life. I've now been married for a decade, and have three children (two of which were my bonus kids from marrying my husband), three dogs and lots of weekly happenings. Wouldn't change any of it for the world.”
Joshua Carter, United States Navy
“I chose to serve to honor family tradition. Both of my parents served in the United States Marine Corps and my older brother and I followed in their footprints to serve by joining the United States Navy. I am involved in several organizations who strive to bring awareness to veteran suicide and seek a way to find and end to it including 22UntilNone and VetCatch.”
“I’ve always wanted to help others and I saw the military as the ultimate service calling! I'm loving my career so far and I hope to continue flying and mastering my craft, then ultimately going on to lead and instruct others!”
Gabriel Camacho, United States Army
“I chose to serve in the United States military because I felt that it was my duty and also a way to challenge myself. I feel that I am, overall, a better person and the skills that I have gained from my military service are the foundation that I am building my current career on. I am finishing up my Elementary Education degree and that is how I intend to continue my selfless service to my community.”
Donat Brown, United States Army
“I chose to serve in the United States Army because I wanted to be part of an organization that is bigger than myself. Growing up as child I can remember seeing my uncles who both served in the military and they were my real-life superheroes. By joining the military, I felt like I could do my part in changing the world for the better, while also becoming a role model for the youth in my community. That was something that I wanted to part of. There are not enough words to express how much I learned from being a Soldier. It was an honor to wear the uniform and serve my country. Most of all, to stand alongside some of the bravest men and women, both domestic and abroad in combat zones. Now that I am a veteran, it is my duty to give back to other veterans by bringing awareness to the trials and tribulations of transitioning to the civilian world. Continue to help fight against the issue of veteran homelessness and ensure that veterans are getting why they so rightfully deserve.”
Lisa Villareal, United States Air Force
“I chose to join the military for many reasons, but the biggest reason was to give myself more opportunities. I felt like I didn't have a good support system when I was 20 years old, and I needed to be able to support myself quickly. Joining the Air Force was the best decision I have ever made and it has opened so many doors for me. I wouldn't be the person I am today without the support of the amazing people I have met along the way. I plan on continuing to serve as long as I am able to. My goal is to retire as a Nurse Corps Officer and be there for my fellow Airman like others have been there for me.”
Enrique Leytividal, United States Navy
“I decided to serve in the military because I needed money for college. When I found out about the G.I.Bill, I went to a recruiter to talk about how to join and served from 2003 until 2010. I was a hospital corpsman and was stationed at a hospital in Naples, Italy and then my last duty station was on board the USS Harry S. Truman. I continue to serve by working on ways to provide veterans with free dentistry. The office I work at has a free dental day every Veterans Day week which I helped create and grow. We are doing our 3rd annual free dental day for veterans on 11/7/20. I work at Watts Dental and I am the head of clinical.”
Matthew McCullough, United States Marine Corps
“From an early age I had always viewed the armed forces as an immense challenge of personal will and relentless effort. Desiring both a higher education and a challenging military experience, I attended college and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve. Leaving school for over a year of training, I set out to endure the arduous process of becoming a Reconnaissance Marine. This pipeline of training pushed me to limits that I didn’t think could be overcome, but looking to my peers for guidance and refusing to quit showed me that teamwork and perseverance can surmount any obstacle. It wasn’t until I deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 that I fully understood what personal sacrifice and selfless service meant. Finding myself detached from my unit, I found that honesty and ingenuity were essential to operating with an unfamiliar group of people in an alien environment. I was tasked with collecting census data in an austere region of Helmand Province, where developing communication with indifferent and hostile persons through multiple language barriers shattered misconceptions about other cultures and redefined what my role in world events would be. These experiences guided me to aspire to be adaptable, resolute, prudent, and magnanimous.
I am currently enrolled part-time as a Master of Public Health student, focusing on Epidemiology. My interest in this field has stemmed from my career as a molecular technologist, where I perform clinical diagnostics on a variety of diseases. My intent to transition to the field of epidemiology comes from a desire to identify the root causes of disease across entire populations, not just individuals. This interest is informed not only my time as a laboratory professional, but also from my experiences with population engagement in Afghanistan, where I was able to observe and engage with a large group of people from diverse backgrounds. I intend to use the culmination of these experiences- coupled with my education- to study the health trends that affect our world today. During my time as an MPH student, I have become interested in chronic health conditions for veterans, and am eager to use my education to give back to the community that helped propel me to the stage in my career that I am currently at. USF has been instrumental in my journey to become a certified health professional so that I can reinvest in the community that has invested in me.”
Salvatore Buccellato, United States Army
“Motivated by the draft in 1969, I decided to join the Army to get a guarantee that I would serve in the Army and in no other branch. Several years later in 1980 after a combat tour in Vietnam and two years in the Reserve, I decided to rejoin the Army Reserve in Military Intelligence to contribute my language and analytical skills to our national defense. The rest is history with 32 years of Intelligence work in the Army and Army Reserve, including another combat tour in Iraq. In spite of my retirement, I plan to continue serving by keeping up with Veterans issues and other issues important to members of the military. My photo was taken 51 years ago when I first entered the military."
Lisset Greene, United States Army
“I choose to serve in the Military after being approached by a recruiter in college. I was not sure what I wanted for my future and after speaking with the recruiter I decided to give it a shot and enlist in the Reserves. During basic training, it was clear to me that I was a natural leader. When I completed my required training I went back home and told my recruiter that I wanted to be Active. In my last unit, I served under the Big Red One, 1St Infantry Division in Germany. The military brought out the best in me. I deployed and helped in training other soldiers. I had a team that I was responsible for.
My job was to ensure that my company had everything they needed to ensure they could complete their mission so that we can all come back home. I would have chosen to retire from the military but being married with a child to a soldier who constantly went out on missions made it very difficult. Imagine being gone for 3 to 4 months at a time come home for 3 weeks and head out again, leaving our son with a sitter. So we decided that I would not re-enlist and that I should finish up my education using the benefits I have earned. Leaving the military to pursue my education was challenging. Nothing felt right to me. I missed my uniform, physical fitness, and a sense of belonging to something greater. Once my son turned 5 years old I wanted to go back in. I started the process of re-enlisting in September of 2001. Sadly 9/11 occurred and my husband asked me to not re-enlist as we both knew that we would be out on deployment. So I quit the process of re-enlisting and continued to support my husband as he served. Sadly my husband suffered great loss of his team members and suffered quietly with PTSD and in 2004 my husband lost the battle to PTSD. After his death, I became very active in the suicide prevention of our soldiers. I volunteered my time in groups and even went to the VA Hospital to address soldiers suffering from PTSD.
I want to continue to help bring awareness of the struggles of PTSD and help in suicide prevention. I know that if I can reach one soldier and help them through their most difficult time then I have done my part. Our soldiers should not feel alone. There should be no stigma in regard to mental health in our ranks. Though I can no longer put on that uniform and stand in the ranks; I plan to continue to honor my husband and my military friends by helping them in their darkest time. I want to continue to let our men and women in uniform that they are not alone.”
Marcus Metz, United States Air Force
“The year was 1986. I was in my junior year at Deer Park High School (NY). My favorite subject was social studies, as a result I always observed world events. April 5th there was a terrorist bombing conducted by Libyan agents at a nightclub in Berlin, Germany. In that attack, 3 people died, including a U.S. service member. Ten days later President Reagan ordered Operation El Dorado Canyon, attacking multiple targets in Libya. I was proud to know that attacks against Americans would not be taken lightly. It was that moment, I knew I was going to serve in the military. After listening to wise counsel from veterans in my family, I chose the Air Force.
After spending a year in community college, I raised my right hand on June 6, 1988, which was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. I was blessed to work with many great people and see countries I never thought I'd visit. In our present day political discourse we hear phrases like "Make America Great Again". To me, in spite of America's flaws, this nation has always been great. That was evident when I spent 4 months in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Upon my return, I was so grateful to be back in America, I actually kissed the ground in Philadelphia. To this day, the greatest job I ever had was my time as an airman in the United States Air Force. I haven't experienced camaraderie like that since.”
Christy Cooper, United States Navy
"Joining the Navy was the best choice I've ever made. The military taught me honor, courage, and committment in everything I do."