Military Veterans in the Campus Community

As another veteran’s day passes, many across the nation honor those Americans who fought to protect their country.

Adjunct professor Alan Foster currently teaches sociology at the University, but in his past, he was known as a soldier for the United States Army.

Foster served in one of the country’s most chaotic and cautious eras during the Cold War. From the late summer of 1955 until the early summer of 1957, Foster was wearing the shade of army green and traveling the world.

“I took my basic training at Ft. Dix, NJ, then went to Radio School also at Ft Dix, was sent to Fort Bragg, NC, where they thought I was going to jump out of airplanes,” Foster said. “Then, luckily, I was assigned to the very secret Army Security Agency in Germany for the rest of my Army career.”

Much like his fellow comrades who served by his side, Foster was drafted into service as most were during that era.

“We were all drafted in those days, so it was no surprise for my parents when I was drafted also. My brothers all served and had their college careers interrupted and knew I would follow in their footsteps whether I wanted to or not,” Foster said.

Foster served his nation through the height of the Cold War, during the Suez Crisis, and the Hungarian Revolution. “I returned to the States with an intensely increased understanding of the world’s many problems at that time,” he said.

Although being a soldier for the United States Army was not Foster’s first choice, he proudly served his country and believes it was one, if not, the most beneficial learning opportunity he ever received.

“The service definitely taught me how to get along with all sorts of people, from all backgrounds; it taught me to become much more disciplined than I already was, and helped me understand how people live in many other cultures, in this country and other countries,” Foster explained.

It can easily be seen how this knowledge transferred over to his current role as a sociology professor. After all, sociology is the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society.

Foster is one of many who have served our nation and currently envelope themselves in the University community.

Vice President for Information Management Edward Christensen is also included in this list of veterans at the University.

Christensen served in the US Navy for a total of 25 years, six of which were active duty and 19 in the reserves. He officially retired in 2009 as a Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman.

Christensen was placed all over the world during his service. When asked where he was stationed, Christensen rolled off a long list. “San Diego, Washington DC, Earle NJ, Fort Dix NJ, Newport RI, Baltimore MD, with major assignments to Camp Pendleton, South Korea, Senegal, and Gabon. I was assigned to units supporting the US Marine Corps, Navy Seabees, and USNS Comfort,” he said.

Unlike Foster, Christensen signed up for the Navy willingly in order to, “give myself time to find the direction I wanted to pursue in my life as well as finish my undergraduate degree,” he continued. “I was in college at RIT but had changed my major virtually every semester so I was feeling a bit lost and without coherence in what I wanted to after nearly two years.”

The Navy certainly gave Christensen time to figure out his career path, but it also provided him with versatile life lessons.

When asked what these lessons were, Christensen said, “Confidence in overcoming obstacles, the importance of teamwork to accomplishing goals, and that leadership can, and should be, exhibited by everyone but first one must understand how to follow.”

With such an impact made on Christensen’s life, the question arose of what his future would have been without the Navy.

“It would have been very different indeed. [I] don’t know for certain if it would be worse but it would have been different,” Christensen continued. “I wouldn’t have been exposed to as much diversity, had as many opportunities to learn about leadership, and would not have learned many skills that are very useful to me to this day. I would certainly not have seen many parts of the world [as] I have.”

Even though both Foster and Christensen learned valuable lessons from their service careers, they urge those who wish to enlist to step back and review some important thoughts.

“Be sure you know what you are getting into,” Foster said. “It’s a professional military these days, different skills are required, and it’s a different form of combat and world situation that you might be involved in.”

Christensen’s words of advice are, “Service to others, including ones country, is in the end a very special and rewarding experience, but is also one requiring sacrifice and one’s own willingness to be a part of sharing that service with others,” he continued.

“Our service is voluntary and you do not often get to choose what you will do but you must do each job well, no matter how mundane or challenging, because your teammates are expecting you to as you are expecting the same of them. And more than [that], many civilians will ever experience your life, and theirs, may literally depend on it. You will find that success in non-military endeavors is more similar than different to military endeavors,” said Christensen.

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