Sun Devil veteran reflects on time in Marine Corp, receiving Navy Cross

April 4, 2012

In the face of danger, it takes a hero to stand and fight for what he believes in. For Robert Mitchell, Jr., a student at Arizona State University and veteran, that meant protecting his country and military brothers when all hope seemed gone.

After growing up in both Iowa and Nebraska, Mitchell joined the Marine Corp in February of 2001. He went on to complete three deployments and two combat tours of Iraq as an Infantry Specialist. During this time he traveled to Hawaii, Singapore, Africa, Australia and Guam, fulfilling his desire for a change of environment and new life experiences. Robert J. Mitchell Download Full Image

“Most of my family are veterans, and growing up I read a lot of books that led me to believe the Marines were the toughest and most close-knit group. I realized that if I didn’t go and have those experiences that I would regret it,” said Mitchell.

In 2006, he was bestowed the Navy Cross, the second-highest decoration behind the Medal of Honor, given to those who exemplify distinguished acts of combat valor. Mitchell earned the award after a deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, where he saved the lives of several Marines who were trapped inside of a squat while enemy forces fired countless rounds of ammunition inside.

Mitchell interchanged between battling the rivals and providing medical assistance to his injured troops. As a trained medic, he was able to tend the wounds of those inside before his fellow squad members assisted the trapped Marines to safety. In the process, Mitchell was hit with shrapnel on his face and legs but did not show any concern for his injuries. His main focus was to save the men whom he considered family.

“In those situations you just react and decide how to gain the upper hand. Your training takes over and you forget about everything else because one of your guys is injured and you have to be there for him,” said Mitchell.

Soon after receiving the Navy Cross, Mitchell decided to leave the service. For him, leaving his friends and becoming a civilian was the hardest adjustment.

“There are so many good memories that stick out to me. Even with that situation in Fallujah, I’m now so much closer to the guys I was with there that it outweighs any of the bad,” he recalls. “That’s what you miss the most about the service – the comradery. When you think you are in the worst situation possible, whether it’s in training or in combat, there is always someone who know just what to say to make light of the situation.”

When asked about the most important lesson he learned from his experiences, Mitchell humbly responds by giving credit for his success to the Marine Corps and his fellow troop members.
“You can’t be a hero by yourself. I would read comic books as a kid and liked the X-Men because it was a group. It wasn’t just one of them defeating bad guys or accomplishing tasks, it is a whole group of them like in the Marines,” he said.

After earning his associate degree at Gilbert Community College, Mitchell came to Arizona State University on a scholarship to continue his education. Majoring in mechanical engineering, he takes one course a semester while supporting his family with a full-time job.

“I love school, and it’s great to go to a veteran-friendly school. I think that for veterans who don’t know much about their GI Bill, or who are looking to use their GI Bill, the Tillman Center is a great place for them to go,” he said.

Upon earning his degree from ASU, Mitchell plans to open his own engineering consulting firm, in which he will also manufacture and sell parts to businesses globally. He also looks forward to continuing to spend time with his family.

In the meantime, Mitchell says the leadership skills that he learned in the military are still being put to good use in his current position where he manages a 20-person production team in the aerospace industry.

ASU announces new look for Sun Devil Stadium

April 4, 2012

ASU's Steve Patterson, vice president for university athletics and athletics director, and ASU head football coach Todd Graham have announced the early stages of a renovation project set to revitalize Sun Devil Stadium over the next couple of years.

Patterson and Graham met with media, fans and staff, April 4, to share some of the basics of the revitalized stadium in addition to some of the initial renderings of the updated and upgraded stadium, which will remain in its iconic location in between the Buttes in Tempe, Ariz. Download Full Image

The renderings are not finalized, but the tentative plan would create a shade canopy over the stadium that will allow the passage of natural light and the passage of air into the stadium while also allowing the Sun Devils to play day games earlier in the year to accommodate Pac-12 Network obligations.

The addition of the shade canopy, in addition to other alterations, will decrease seating to an area between 55,000 and 65,000 seats. As such, larger seats will be provided with more leg room and the potential of more seats with a seat back.

The stadium will be updated with a state-of-the-art sound system, video board and scoreboards, and ADA amenities and features.

The site development will provide enhanced aesthetic value for the fan experience while also allowing for improved sight lines with decreased capacity and new angles and the mezzanine design allows for future build-out of club seating if necessary.  

The cost of the stadium has not been determined at this time. There also are two different options available for the build: one that would allow the team and fans to stay in Sun Devil Stadium during construction or another that would move ASU out of the stadium for a season or two that would allow time to complete the project faster. The stadium can be built in up to five stages, but a timetable has not been established yet.

Pac-12 teams have spent more than a billion dollars in the last 10 years in building or renovating football stadiums. The current stadium proposal would provide increased revenues in the long term and also take recruiting to a new level.

Sun Devil Athletics will continue to provide updates and new information to the fans and general public as it becomes available. Stay tuned to for future releases on this new and exciting stadium project.


Former football letterwinners, current Sun Devil student-athletes on stadium renovations

“For the most part, I think the new stadium renovations will bring a lot more excitement to ASU as a whole. It’s going to help us in recruiting and definitely help bring up the excitement in Sun Devil Stadium again.”

– Rudy Burgess, former Sun Devil letterwinner

“I think it’s a big thing for our program and it’s going to put us to the next level. I’m excited to see all the different plans and I think it will help with recruiting. All of that stuff is really exciting and I’m pumped to see what’s going to happen.”

– Evan Finkenberg, offensive lineman, current Sun Devil student-athlete

“If you take a look at most of the top-10 successful programs in the country, the common denominator is the fact that they all have state-of-the-art facilities, including the stadium. When recruits come in and tour campuses and take a look at the facilities, they get an idea of what type of a commitment that university has to their sporting programs, specifically football. I think it would behoove the Sun Devils, and help them tremendously in their recruiting and in their ability to achieve the goals they’re looking to achieve, by enhancing their stadium. The alumni would get excited and the recruits would get excited, and that would obviously turn into wins. It’s just kind of a process that will continue to create more and more excitement and more and more wins, and that’s what we need here at ASU.”

– Nathan LaDuke, former Sun Devil letterwinner

“I won’t be able to play in it, but I’ll be able to come back and visit it, and I think it would be nice to see a brand new stadium. Everybody is so used to this, and we got the new jerseys – I think a new stadium will help with fan support and just getting everybody excited in Arizona.”

– Brandon Magee, linebacker, current Sun Devil student-athlete

“The new football stadium will be huge for us and it will be a great recruiting tool. It’s still outdoors and still allows you to feel the heat when you come down here, but a little shade for the fans - I think they’ll appreciate that. I think it will be a little louder, actually, because it’s kind of an enclosed feel. I’m sad I can’t play in it, but I’ll definitely come back to check out the games and check out the renovations as they go. If you’re trying to be great, what better way to start than to get the best facilities possible?”

– Cameron Marshall, running back, current Sun Devil student-athlete

“I like the idea of having something to cover the field because that opens up opportunities to be nationally televised in early September or late August because now it’s tolerable. If we’re going to go big-time, than we have do the big-time things so we are available to take our shot on national television when it comes and we can’t be held back because of weather. Everybody is so impressionable, and people even to this day, because we play most of our stuff at night, they’re not even sure where Arizona is, let alone Arizona State. Every time you can be exposed, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent, you’re going to make an impression on somebody, so playing in front of a national audience is hugely important.”

– Ron Pritchard, former Sun Devil letterwinner

“Sun Devil Stadium is sorely in need of renovation after looking around the Pac-12 landscape. I think from a fan-enjoyment perspective, it needs to be improved. If fans come, that will increase both recruiting and player experience, which translates into revenue and wins.”

– Jeff Van Raaphorst, former Sun Devil letterwinner

“With the stadium renovations comes tradition and being more of a family than ASU alumni have been in the past. Creating more of a family and team atmosphere among the football players is really going to add a cohesiveness that has been missing somewhat, just because the stadium is old. I also think it is really important for recruiting, just as much as the locker room and the weight room were. When there are top-tier, blue chip players that are on the bubble about where they should go, they can really look at the stadium as a means of creating their future. It goes beyond just the four or five years they’re going to play at Arizona State to a legacy we are trying to build. We are creating that bond for the future so that players like myself, 20 years later, want to bring their families back and it feel like they’re right back at home where they were before.”

– Chuck Underwood, former Sun Devil letterwinner

Lisa Robbins

Assistant Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications