Texas Tech University

Veterans Day 2021

Veterans Day 2021

“Today, We Recognize the Sacrifice of Those Who Still Carry with Them What Time Cannot Repay: A Service to Duty, Honor, and Country That is Easily Talked About but Hard Earned.”

11.11.2021 | Brian Still, Ph.D., Acting Dean; 1st Lieutenant, Texas State Guard

As our nation sets aside this day to remember the service of military veterans, the College of Arts & Sciences honors those among us who have dedicated themselves to bravery and duty.

For the last two decades we have been a nation at war; and children born after 9/11 have now put on the uniform and served, for us. We are thankful and honored that they are here, going to school, looking to find a way forward to a new life. Equally, we thank those on our staff and faculty and all others who at different times in their lives, and at different periods in our history, committed themselves to something more than themselves in bearing the weight of our nation's flag on their shoulder.

It is not our intention on this Veterans Day to politicize the act of military service. Rather, we recognize the sacrifice of those in our college who may still carry with them what time cannot repay: a service to duty, honor, and country that is easily talked about but hard earned.

Here, in their own words, are a few of their stories.

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Clayton Alexander

Student in Explore STEM, declaring Kinesiology in December

Clayton Alexander, TTU student and military veteran

Clayton Alexander, at right.

Rank and Branch:

Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps.

Dates of Service:

August 2014 to February 2021.

Where were you stationed?

Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Kinser, Okinawa.

What inspired you to join the military?

I wanted to serve my country and help defend my family.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

I learned that my experiences could be used to enhance others' understanding and influence their viewpoints. About the country and our society, I learned that we are seen rather differently by other countries and people.

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Joseph Beard

Student, Department of History

Rank and Branch:

Sergeant, U.S. Army.

Dates of Service:

2005 to 2010.

Where were you stationed?

Fort Hood, Texas.

What inspired you to join the military?

Desire to serve my country.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

That there are many different kinds of people.

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Dave Foster

Student, Department of History

Dave Foster, TTU history student and military veteran

Dave Foster.

Rank and Branch:

Captain, U.S. Marine Corps.

Dates of Service:

January 1988 to October 1994.

Where were you stationed?

Camp Pendleton, Calif.

What inspired you to join the military?

It seemed like it would be a difficult challenge.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

Personal freedom (and graduate school) requires discipline.

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Josh Fotis

Student, Global Studies, Department of Political Science

Rank and Branch:

Specialist, U.S. Army.

Dates of Service:

July 2018 to August 2021.

Where were you stationed?

Fort Hood, Texas.

What inspired you to join the military?

I wanted to experience hard things in life to help me appreciate the good things in life.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

Weak men will always exploit every opportunity to make themselves look strong, but as you develop as a leader you learn that strong men never blame anyone else for weakness, only themselves. This is the mark of a true leader: you are responsible for the guidance into the unknown and any outcome that comes from it, you have to deal with those consequences as a leader.

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Eric Hammersen, Ed.D.

Associate Professor, TTU's Institute for Peace and Conflict (IPAC)

Dr. Eric Hammersen, TTU professor and military veteran

Eric Hammersen, U.S. Defense Attaché in Germany, speaking with then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld during a meeting in Munich.

Rank and Branch:

Colonel, U.S. Army.

Dates of Service:

1968 to 2002.

Where were you stationed?

U.S. (multiple locations), Korea, Germany, Netherlands, Central America.

What inspired you to join the military?

I was an Army brat growing up (my father served for 20+ years), and I always wanted to join the Army.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

About myself, to quote Stonewall Jackson, "You can be whatever you resolve to be." The biggest obstacle to individual success is often not realizing that you can do much more than you might think.

About this nation, I learned that service to the nation takes priority over doing what's best for yourself. We took an oath (several times during my career) to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States—and that is a sacred obligation.

About society, I discovered that we are blessed with many highly qualified individuals who love their country and are willing to sacrifice everything—even their lives—to defend their fellow Americans.

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Dillon Huff

Student, Department of Environmental Toxicology

Dillon Huff, TTU Environmental toxicology student and military veteran

Dillon Huff, at left.

Rank and Branch:

Petty Officer 2nd Class, U.S. Navy.

Dates of Service:

July 2010 to present.

Where were you stationed?

Naval Operational Support Center, Decatur, Ill.

What inspired you to join the military?

Family history of enlistment and furthering the mission of improving humanitarian efforts.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

My service to the US Navy has taught valuable lessons about culture and appreciating the human experience with the vast amount of diversity in the ranks. Personally, the military has instilled excellent work ethic and drive to accomplish your dreams and ambitions in your civilian life. I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of the United States Navy in pursuit of a doctoral degree in STEM and achieving my best self in the process while still in the service.

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Ian Hughes

Student, Department of Physics & Astronomy

Ian Hughes, TTU Physics student and military veteran

Ian Hughes.

Rank and Branch:

Senior Airman (E-4), U.S. Air Force.

Dates of Service:

November 2011 to November 2015.

Where were you stationed?

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

What inspired you to join the military?

I had a sense of calling that inspired me to join. My family has a long military tradition, but not one that had any pressure to join; I just knew it was a possible avenue. A few years after graduating high school, I felt stagnant as a person—I felt I had more potential that I was able to realize and that I shouldn't let that potential go to waste. I saw an Army ad on TV, and decided to follow the inspiration, although with a modification for another branch.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

I learned a lot during my service. The most significant thing I learned about myself was that I am capable of more: I went from delivering pizzas to maintaining jet engines worth about $2 million in six months, and I had barely scratched the surface of what I could achieve. I don't think this is a unique experience either. The military takes in thousands of inexperienced people and shows them the world by providing growth, opportunity, and responsibilities.

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David Lektzian, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

David Lektzian, TTU political science professor and military veteran

David Lektzian.

Rank and Branch:

E-5, U.S. Navy.

Dates of Service:

1984 to 1990.

Where were you stationed?

Mostly onboard the USS John F. Kennedy out of Norfolk, Va.

What inspired you to join the military?

My father was a WWII Navy veteran.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

I joined the Navy directly out of high school, when I was 18 years old. I really grew up in the Navy and I learned a lot about responsibility during my six years of service. As an electrician on an aircraft carrier, I also learned valuable technical skills that I still use today. I also learned to work in a highly diverse social environment. In the last few years of my service, I had management responsibilities as a shop supervisor where people's lives depended on me and my shop performing its duties. The lessons I learned during those formative years still guide me today. After leaving the Navy to go to college, I had a level of maturity that I could not have possibly possessed when I was 18. I am certain that much of the success I achieved in academics and my career is a result of the years I spent in the Navy.

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Dave Lewis, M.A.

Director, Strategic Studies, TTU's Institute for Peace and Conflict (IPAC)
Professor of Practice, Department of Political Science

Dave Lewis, TTU political science professor and military veteran

Dave Lewis.

Rank and Branch:

Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Retired).

Dates of Service:

1980 to 2009.

Where were you stationed?

14 Different places in the U.S., Germany, Korea, and SW Asia.

What inspired you to join the military?

Scholarship opportunity for college—but the people inspired me to stay!

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

We live in a great nation, and despite all of the current challenges we face I wish Americans could see many of the other countries of the world. I had the privilege of seeing 33 countries during my time in service, and I gained a great appreciation for how lucky I was to be an American. However, I wish we could do a better job of bridging our civil-military divide. With an all-volunteer force, many Americans do not understand the motivation, discipline, and dedication of the young men and women who serve our country, frequently under very difficult circumstances.

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Kalea McFadden

Student, Department of History

Kalea McFadden, TTU history student and military veteran

Kalea McFadden.

Rank and Branch:

Sergeant, U.S. Army.

Dates of Service:

2007 to 2018.

Where were you stationed?

Various locations around the United States and Iraq/Kuwait.

What inspired you to join the military?

My son.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

A sense of self, selflessness, and standing up for what is right.

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Dan Martin

Student, Department of Philosophy

Daniel Martin, TTU philosophy student and military veteran

Dan Martin.

Rank and Branch:

E-5 Staff Sergeant, U.S. Air Force.

Dates of Service:

August 2012 to August 2018.

Where were you stationed?

Dyess Air Force Base, Texas

What inspired you to join the military?

To serve my country, gain early life and work experience, and to earn my GI Bill.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

I learned that it's not enough to do the bare minimum. If you want to be successful and competitive, you need to go above and beyond what others expect of you.

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Ron Milam, Ph.D.

Executive Director, TTU's Institute for Peace and Conflict (IPAC)
Associate Professor, Department of History

Ron Milam, TTU history professor and military veteran

Ron Milam.

Rank and Branch:

1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army.

Dates of Service:

July 1968 to June 1974.

Where were you stationed?

Ft. Bragg, N.C.; and Pleiku Province, Republic of Vietnam.

What inspired you to join the military?

I was drafted, then enlisted to become an officer.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

I learned that when our nation asks us to serve, that even if we would like to do something else with our lives, we must do our civic duty—or pay the consequences, such as jail time. I did my best to keep my men alive in Vietnam, and came home to a nation that was not very grateful. The experience taught me that keeping your buddies alive is more important than even your own life.

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Steve Presley, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Environmental Toxicology
Director, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health
Director, Biological Threat Research Laboratory

Steve Presley, TTU environmental toxicology professor and military veteran

Steve Presley, at right.

Rank and Branch:

Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy.

Dates of Service:

February 1990 to September 2002.

Where were you stationed?

Alameda, Calif; Cairo, Egypt; Quantico, Va.; Jacksonville, Fla.

What inspired you to join the military?

The opportunity to serve our country by applying my professional training to protect U.S. military forces and eliminate suffering from vector-borne infectious diseases globally.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

The U.S.A. is truly the most beneficent and greatest country on Earth.

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Juan Ramirez

Student, Concentration in Russian Language & Area Studies, Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Cultures

Juan Ramirez, right foreground, TTU student and military veteran

Juan Ramirez, foreground right.

Rank and Branch:

Specialist, U.S. Army.

Dates of Service:

January 2015 to January 2020.

Where were you stationed?

Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

What inspired you to join the military?

I looked up to my uncles growing up, and when they joined the Marine Corps, it encouraged me to pursue the military as an option to escape a hostile environment.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

I learned of myself that there are more sides of me that I still can discover. Living is about learning who you are and what makes you tick.

About this nation, I learned that troop support only goes so far. To truly support the military, we should seek to better the lives of the people supporting us and our nation's citizens.

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Gary Reid

QA/Safety Manager, Department of Environmental Toxicology

Priscilla and Gary Reid, TTU QA/safety manager and military veteran

Priscilla, at left, and Gary Reid, at right.

Rank and Branch:

Aviation Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer (E7), U.S. Navy.

Dates of Service:

June 1971 to May 1995.

Where were you stationed?

North Island, Calif.; USS Constellation CV 64; USS Kitty Hawk CV-63; USS Ranger CV-61; Naval Air Station, Kingsville, Texas.

What inspired you to join the military?

Didn't want to get drafted.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

I learned that I was capable of completing anything I set my mind to.

This nation is by far the greatest nation on the planet.

The way society looks at the military is very fluid, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

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Bain Serna

Student, Department of Philosophy

Rank and Branch:

Sergeant, U.S. Army.

Dates of Service:

2004 to present.

Where were you stationed?

Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

What inspired you to join the military?

The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

I learned that we are so fortunate to live in this country, and that our country is worth serving and loving. My military service instilled in me a sense of pride and service, as well as knowing that our freedoms should not be taken for granted.

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Pedro Villegas

Student, Department of Political Science

Monument of Casualties, photo courtesy of Pedro Villegas

PEDRO VILLEGAS REMEMBERS HIS FRIENDS

This memorial is inscribed with the names of 50 soldiers who died in 2009-2010, during Pedro Villegas' second deployment in Afghanistan: "When I returned from leave in early October 2009, I had to wait at Bagram Air Base (Afghanistan) because of heavy fighting," Villegas remembers. "While I waited there, I was assigned to a 'Hero's Flight' detail, where the remains of the fallen are placed in caskets, draped in American flags, and loaded into C-140s to be returned home. I did not know it at the time that these particular soldiers I was sending home were all my friends. I only found out when I got back to my unit who it was I had sent home. I got to say goodbye to them in the most honorable way." Photo courtesy of Pedro Villegas.

Rank and Branch:

Corporal, U.S. Army.

Dates of Service:

August 2005 to March 2013.

Where were you stationed?

Fort Carson, Colo.; and Fort Hood, Texas.

What inspired you to join the military?

To help those who were unable to fight back.

Please share what you learned through your military service about yourself, this nation, or society overall.

Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Sacrifice. Never leave a fallen comrade. Always do what is right, especially when no one is looking. Stand up for the freedom of others, especially those who have never known freedom. Always be the change you want to see in this world.

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