Among the 21.8 million military veterans in the United States are some of Concordia’s own. Below are the stories of three students who served in different military branches, in different places, in different roles. What unites them as Cobbers and veterans is a desire to serve their communities, country and world.
A Family Force
Retired Staff Sgt. Jessica Summer ’14, Odessa, Texas, watched the events of 9/11 from her television screen and knew she had to respond. Nine months after her high school graduation, she enlisted in the Air Force, where she served for seven years.
Summer was deployed for seven months in Afghanistan, where she was a munitions technician. She learned how to assemble and maintain explosive devices.
What she gained from her deployment was a newfound, close-knit family. Summer knew she could call on anyone at any time.
“You go from being complete strangers to potentially trusting them with your life,” she says.
Now she has a new appreciation for life and doesn’t get rattled by much. What would have been “freak-out moments” for her before she entered the military are now challenges to be conquered.
She learned how to transition smoothly during her military career, so her first semester at Concordia, while a definite change, has not overwhelmed her. Summer has learned her gifts and interests and is set on her career path – physical therapy.
“This is exactly what I want to do, and I’m going to do it,” she says.
She is grateful for the life lessons she learned and the lifelong friends she’s made through the Air Force. Both will be valuable as she continues her studies at Concordia.
Keeping the Peace
Spc. Kelsy Johnson ’12, Bismarck, N.D., enlisted in the Army National Guard while she still had a year left of high school. She was excited to do something for her country – play oboe in the 188th Army Band.
Still, she knew from the start that she wanted to be deployed. Kosovo offered the global studies and print journalism major firsthand experience in a peacekeeping operation.
“I wanted to not just serve my country but other people around the world as well,” Johnson says.
She had the foundation of one year of her liberal arts education and a better understanding of the world when she left for Kosovo. At Concordia, Johnson had learned to ask questions, and overseas, she found no easy answers.
“Of course there is corruption. Of course there are gangs. We know that,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean you stop trying.”
She was deployed as a driver with the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. While driving and trying to avoid potholes, goats and children, Johnson would listen in on conversations of senators, representatives, heads of state and high-ranking military officers. She now brings those real-life experiences back to the classroom.
Johnson also has appreciated the opportunity to serve her hometown communities. She helped fight the flood in Fargo-Moorhead in 2009 and was on active duty during the flood this summer in her hometown.
At Home at Sea
Retired Petty Officer 2nd Class Marsha Werner ’13 (right), Redfield, S.D., served as a Master at Arms in the Navy for more than nine years before coming to Concordia. She learned a great deal about other countries by working with sailors around the world. She was stationed in Cuba twice — the first time on patrol and the second time as a guard in maximum security for detainees. She also traveled to Japan and Puerto Rico during her military career.
Werner describes her duties as the equivalent of a police officer. This experience led her to her current career path. She is pursuing a major in psychology and plans to earn a master’s degree in forensic psychology following graduation.
Werner misses the camaraderie of the Navy, but she has found a home here at Concordia. She has appreciated the opportunity to share her story with her classmates and be closer to her family.
“I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve my country,” she says.