UC students put education on hold for Army service

Students learn to juggle military, school obligations 

Earning a college degree takes hard work, persistence and time.

But some students put service to their country before their own academic ambitions.

Several student veterans at the University of Cincinnati are putting their education on hold for the next year to serve in active duty in the military.

UC Blue Ash student Caitlyn Crawford is a combat medic in the U.S. Army National Guard. She finished 10 weeks of combat training and 16 weeks of intensive medical training. Soldiers refer to the position as “68 Whiskey.”

“I work better under pressure. I have a personality where, when things get stressful, I can think clearly,” she said. 

Crawford wants to study nursing with a specialty in trauma medicine. For now she will have to defer those plans while she joins her unit in Washington, D.C., for the next year as part of her six-year military commitment.

Crawford’s mom passed away when she was a child, so she said it was especially hard when at age 17 she asked her dad’s permission to enlist in the Army.

“My dad was hesitant. It was definitely hard to make a decision like that, especially with the job I chose,” she said. “It was tough on him, but it was something I really wanted to do and I thought really hard about it.”

Veterans Day Ceremony, Keynote CPT Shirley May, USAR, Women's Veterans Program Manager, Cincinnati VA Hospital, Guest speaker State Representative Rick Perales

UC hosts Veterans Day ceremonies each year on its Uptown Campus. Photo/Jay Yocis/UC

About 3% of UC graduates are veterans or dependents of veterans. UC’s Office of Veterans Programs and Services works to help students make the adjustment to academic life.

UC student Marshawn Amison is both the first in his family to serve in the military and the first to go to college. After serving in the U.S. Army National Guard for the past five years, he renewed a four-year contract.

He operates a mobile vehicle that fires surface-to-air Stinger missiles. Amison, too, will spend the next year on active duty in Washington, D.C.

Joining the military was a very good decision for me. It gave me skills that will stick with me forever.

Caitlyn Crawford, UC Blue Ash student

Amison is accustomed to planning his academic life around drills and other obligations. This won’t be the first time he has put college on hold. Amison was deployed to Iraq before returning to the regional campus UC Blue Ash.

“My mom didn’t want me to join the military, but I was 18. I told her she could come with me if she wanted to,” he joked. “She was nervous when I went to Iraq, but that’s to be expected.

“I didn’t run into any crazy things there. Every day was pretty much the same,” Amison said.

Portrait of Marshawn Amison in a Levi's T-shirt and jeans.

UC Blue Ash student Marshawn Amison plans to study civil engineering in UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science. Photo/Provided

Amison was determined to come to UC after he graduated from high school in a suburb of Cincinnati.

“I wasn’t the best student, but I knew I was smart enough to go to college,” Amison said. “But how was I going to pay for it? I had a recruiter come and tell me about the benefits of the Army National Guard.”

Amison was accepted into UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science where he wants to study civil engineering. The college will hold his position until his return, he said.

And he knows he’s not alone.

“I know a lot of student veterans at UC. We have a program at UC Blue Ash called the ‘smoke pit’ where student veterans can talk to a licensed therapist about what’s going on. They help with the daily stress, being able to talk to people who have been through the same things you’ve been through,” he said. “It’s a nice environment to talk about anything you want without anyone judging you.”

Both Amison and Crawford said they will be counting the days to their return to campus.

“For me, school has always been the most important thing,” Amison said.

Crawford agreed, saying she hopes to take online classes during her mission to the nation’s capital.

“My plan is to come back to UC, where I hope to pick right up and apply to the nursing program,” she said. “Joining the military was a very good decision for me. It gave me skills that will stick with me forever.”

Featured image at top: UC Blue Ash student Marshawn Amison will spend the next year in serving in active duty in the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C. 

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