Three student veterans, Nathan Stockfleth, Krisztian Fasi and Michael Mayrose, have served a combined 21 years in the military.
Each shared their experiences in service and how they’ve adjusted to civilian and college life.
Twelve years in the Air National Guard
Stockfleth, a senior finance major from Sergeant Bluff, IA, has been in the Air National Guard for more than 12 years.
Stockfleth, who still serves in the Guard, said he joined because he felt it was the right thing to do.
“Both of my grandfathers were in the Air Force, my father is a Lt. Colonel in the National Guard and so I joined,” Stockfleth said. “It’s just part of my identity, my family’s identity. That and being able to defend our freedom and our way of life.”
Stockfleth said both his grandparents served in the Korean War conflict and his father has been in the Guard for more than 30 years. He said when he was growing up, his dad would be gone for months at a time whenever his unit was active.
“Because I haven’t lived in somebody else’s shoes, I can’t say that (my childhood) was any worse or better off than anyone else,” he said.
Stockfleth was deployed to Qatar twice, as well as Guam and Turkey. One of his deployments to Qatar was last year from January to August.
Stockfleth said the best thing about his time in the military was the sense of pride and accomplishment.
“Even when I’ve fallen on hard times, I’ve always had military service to reflect upon myself and say if nothing else, at the end of the day, I was able to give back to the U.S., to defend our freedoms and our way of life,” he said.
Stockfleth said he appreciated the camaraderie in the military.
“When you deploy somewhere with those guys, it’s you and them,” he said. “When you go to war with these guys, they’ve got your back and you’ve got their back.”
He said his time overseas was a humbling experience, and returning home helped him remember his freedoms.
“When I got back last fall, I got in my car just cruising down the interstate,” he said. “I put the windows down in my car and I could smell the fresh air and I just thought, ‘This is really awesome.’ It’s something that we take for granted every single day, something as simple as driving around, something I hadn’t experienced since the end of the summer prior.”
Five years in the Navy
Fasi, a third-year nursing student from Fort Lauderdale, FL, served in the Navy for five years.
Fasi said he joined the service right out of high school because he didn’t have the money to go to college right away. He was the first member of his family to serve in the U.S. military.
Fasi worked in the medical field of the Navy.
“The military is very unique in that 90 percent of it just sucks, but that 10 percent makes the rest of it worth it,” he said. “You could sit here and complain about, ‘Oh I didn’t like this or I didn’t like that,’ it’s that other small 10 percent that means so much and makes us stay in the military, especially on active duty.”
Fasi said he primarily served as a pharmacy technician at the second largest Naval hospital in the U.S., located in Portsmouth, VA.
“To be a Navy Corpsman, everyone has to go through boot camp to become a sailor and then we went to Corps School, or A school, our first job school,” Fasi said. “Then from A school, you’re able to go to some specialty school, which are called C schools, and so I went to two of those. I went to a pharmacy tech one and a combat medical infirmary.”
Fasi waited six months after leaving the service before coming to USD. He said the adjustment was hard at first.
“I didn’t interact well at all with people, I didn’t interact with my classmates,” Fasi said. “Now I’m actually serving as an SGA senator and that’s broadened my experience with students here.”
For Fasi, being in service has made him want to make sure that he’s always serving his community, he said.
“I think almost all veterans are like that to a degree,” Fasi said.
Four years in the Army
Mayrose, a senior criminal justice major from Salem, SD, served in the Army for about four years. He was stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia and served nine months in Afghanistan.
Mayrose said he comes from a military family. Two of his grandparents were WWII veterans, and both of his parents served for more than 20 years.
“They were both gone and there were a lot of kids, so on the weekends when mom was at Guard, we just had to do a little bit more making sure we all got each other fed and got to school,” he said. “Then when dad was gone, we had to take care of the farm, but it didn’t seem out of the norm, it was just kind of the way it was.”
While Mayrose made many close friends during his time in service, he said the military also taught him how to work with people he didn’t like.
“There were guys in my unit that I absolutely hated, but I also trusted them implicitly,” he said. “It was a really cool experience to know that I don’t need to like this person and they don’t need to like me. They just need to know that I can be professional and do my job and they can do their job and I can respect their abilities.”
Mayrose said his time in service taught him a lot about himself.
“It throws you in situations that are really, really difficult to deal with. It basically says, ‘You’re here, what are you going to do?'” Mayrose said. “Are you going to sit down and shut down or are you going to step forward and actively improve your situation?”
Mayrose said there isn’t just one thing to know about veterans because no two veterans are the same.
“Some are nice, some are mean, some you can trust, some you can’t, some are going to be hard workers, some aren’t,” he said. “It’s not some magic label, it’s just people like everyone else.”