By: Delanie Garcia/Contributing Writer
One traditional aspect of the college experience is students seeking out higher education after high school. Many students who attend a University after graduating high school do so to prepare themselves for their careers and what is ahead.
For student veterans, however, the timeline is a bit different.
Israel Najarro, a senior public administration major and current president of the Student Veterans of America, shares his story with Student Media on how his experience being in the military has shaped his experience here at FIU.
He enlisted in the United States Army fresh out of high school, having been recruited by the military to serve in the field of Human Intelligence. He joined in 2004, and went on to complete basic training in Oklahoma.
His history in the military has taken him worldwide: from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Germany, as well as along the border of Mexico.
For Najarro, going from an average high school student in Chicago to a member of the U.S Military is no simple task.
“When I was younger I was more reserved and introverted. When I joined the army it forced me to change a lot about myself, both for the betterment of the United States Army, as well as for myself,” he said.
Najarro believes the military has helped shape him into who he is today. He listed assertiveness, focus, passion, and task-orientedness as only a fraction of the skills he acquired during his time with the military.
Success in the United States Army can be defined by different individuals in different ways. For Najarro, one of the most life-changing moments in his career was when he was promoted to Sergeant.
“My heart swelled with such pride and emotion,” he said. “I got so much love that day.”
Najarro believes his impact at FIU rests upon his ability to create a sense of inclusion and belonging among student veterans on campus.
“I remember who I was when I first came here. I remember being that guy fresh in Miami, and I didn’t know anything,” he said. “At orientation, someone brought me to the office of Veteran and Military Affairs, and I felt welcome.”
Through his position as the president of the Student Veterans of America Association, Najarro hopes he can serve as a beacon for engagement and awareness, as well as a link to Student Veterans across FIU’s campus.
“The community service and development is good, but I’m at peace knowing that if a battle-scarred veteran feels welcome here, I have done my job,” said Najarro. “This organization has done it’s job.”