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In their words: Sun Devils share their military stories

November 08, 2012

We asked and they delivered: Sun Devils of all ages and backgrounds shared with us their military-inspired stories for a chance to win the ultimate game day experience.

The grand prize includes tickets and field passes to the Nov. 17 "Salute to Service" ASU football game against Washington State in Sun Devil Stadium. Other prizes include game tickets and Pat Tillman gear.

Below are excerpts from several submissions we received.

Tom Parsons

My father was wounded in Vietnam well before I was born, and earned a Purple Heart for his sacrifice and service. Although I was not born when my father served, he instilled in me everything he had learned while serving from day one, and made me who I am today. He is currently 100 percent DAV (Disabled American Veteran), and I see all of what he has gone through – PTSD, depression, and everything that comes with it. He does not talk in detail about everything he encountered while fighting for our country, but has still raised me on the beliefs that he was taught.

We are not able to do a lot of things together because of my working as a teacher, and I would love to be able to show him my appreciation with this contest. A simple "thank you" does it for him, but I would like to go above and beyond this. We were able to meet Pat during his first Cardinals camp, and they chatted about the military even before we knew Pat would deploy.  

My father is an avid Sun Devil supporter as am I, and I think what you are doing as a school for our military is such a great thing. My father is my hero in life. Thank you again for your support with our military and ASU Athletics.

Travis Cochlin

My name is Travis Cochlin and though I have not had the chance to attend ASU, I have always been a Sun Devil at heart. I started the enrollment process in 2005, but I joined the U.S. Army as a 19 Delta Cavalry Scout in August 2005 just after my 19th birthday. I have had one deployment to Iraq from October 2006 to December 2007.

While on my deployment I received the Combat Action badge and my unit received a Valorous Unit Award. I also served as an instructor for 19 Delta OSUT and as tester for the new equipment that the Army wants to buy. My total career was just over seven years. I was just recently released from active duty in late October though my official release date is November 11, 2012. I decided to get out because I want to be able to be a part of my family more. I have a wife and a three year old and just spent my first Halloween with them.

I have been an ASU fan since I could remember. I do everything I can to watch my Devils play. When I was at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, I purchased the Pac-10 network and stayed up until 1 to 2 a.m. watching the games. While in Iraq I not only had my ASU blanket, I took my ASU hat everywhere with me. I would sometimes wear my hat on patrol. Nothing would make me more happy then being able to be on the sidelines with the Sun Devils. I will forever be an unconditional Sun Devils fan.

Katherine Gipson

My mom and dad are both baby boomers raised in Phoenix. My dad was drafted out of high school to the U.S. Army in 1970. Luckily, he was a twin and was spared from Vietnam because who knows if I’d be around if he had gone. My mother, a high school dropout, took a giant leap of faith and joined the U.S. Marines in 1970, when there were as many “Women Marines” in the military as people I went to high school with. (I like to think she is
a pretty tough lady.)

My father continued to serve in the Army until he retired after he returned from Desert Storm in 1992. My mother served a four-year tour in the Marines and then a 17-year enlistment in the Air Guard until she retired in 1997. They both retired as Master Sergeants – my mom with the higher E-8 ranking.

Even though both of my parents have suffered from severe emotional distress, and my father from physical ailments and “unexplained illnesses,” they still take pride in their service to our country, and so do I. They made the choice of joining the military a non-issue for my bother and I; we were not even allowed to think of doing so. My parents wanted so badly for us to have what no one in our family and extended family had never achieved before – a college degree. I was on my way in 2005 when I headed to ASU with my Maroon & Gold Scholarship.

In May 2009, my parents' dream came true when I received my degree in secondary education from Arizona State University. I don’t know if I have ever seen them happier. They tell me all the time how proud they are of me. But one thing I don’t do often enough is express to them how proud it makes me to tell others their stories, to share with
others that both of my parents are veterans, or that I am just as proud of them and their sacrifices and accomplishments.

Tyler Sytsma

I was a sophomore in high school, sitting in my second-period math class with Mr. Glynn. A teacher came in the room and switched the television on. 9/11. The first plane had already hit and I would see the next plane hit live. I was 15 at the time, but I knew what I wanted to do. Just as my grandfathers had joined the great war effort after Pearl Harbor happened, I was going to do what I could to help my country.

I had to wait another two years before I was legally able to go through the process of joining a branch of the military, but I knew exactly which branch I wanted to join. I walked into the Marine Corps recruiting office and declared that I wanted to join.

Shortly into Iraq the first time we were given the mission briefing. We were to be going to what was referred to as the “wild, wild west” on “Operation Steel Curtain.” Every person who wanted to take their shot at America was flooding across the Syrian border and shooting. Our job was to clear five cities door to door, eliminating all threats within the rules of engagement that we were given. I will spare the reader some of the details of this operation since it was long, bloody, and changed my life forever. I was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with Valor for my actions overseas on that first tour of mine. I was the entry man to over 2,000 houses on that mission of clearing the five cities. The houses were not always empty, and they did not always have friendly people within. I did what I had to do, and I thank the men who trained me for instilling in me the capabilities that I acquired.

Looking back on my experiences I can see how my time in the military and in war has molded me into the person that I am today. I gained confidence that I never knew I could possess, was granted the opportunity to attend college and have it paid for by the Montgomery GI Bill, and have made friends for life. Today, I am still a student at Arizona State and will be receiving degrees in English Literature and Sustainable Technologies once I complete a calculus course in the spring semester.

Ameema Johnson

I am an Army wife attending ASU. My husband and I got married on 11-11-11, so our first anniversary is coming up this Sunday, Veterans Day. He is currently serving his third deployment in Afghanistan. He was previously in Iraq twice and he is only 23 years old.

I am a senior at the Cronkite School and the School of Politics and Global Studies. My husband, Tyler, has been in the military since 2007 and has been deployed this time since January 21st. He will be coming home in January, finishing up his year of serving out there. While he has been deployed, he has been planing out his future enrollment at ASU. He has talked to Veteran Affairs and is on track to apply to ASU for the Spring 2014 semester when his Army contract is up.

Even though we are a very young couple, we have made it through a lot in this past year of marriage and deployment. I am so proud of all that he has done at such a young age and cannot wait for him to come home. He is a wonderful husband, soldier and man and I cannot wait for him to start his journey as a Sun Devil.

Monique Martinez

I knew during my senior year of high school, which branch I wanted to join and the job that I wanted to have. I wanted to join the Air Force and join military police. I was only 17 at the time and had to beg my mother to sign the waiver documents. I had been accepted and began my journey as a Security Police member. My first duty station was Vandenberg AFB, California. I had rapidly progressed in my career. I had worked as a gate guard, patrolman, dispatcher, corrections, and with the base Fish and Game unit. I was assigned to my first temporary duty assignment in Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia. I had no idea what to expect. It was a completely different culture.

When I had returned back to California, a team was leaving the following month to Riyadh AB, Saudi Arabia. Another co-worker had a two-month-old infant she was going to have to leave behind. I felt really bad she would miss her first child’s Christmas. I volunteered to take her spot and I arrived back to Saudi Arabia exactly 30 days after I had left.

I had already learned a few things about the culture during my first assignment. I had joined a council that came up with concerns and issues that should be fixed. I worked on morale. My passion was to bring fun things to lift the spirits of fellow military members. Working 14-hour shifts and working six days straight with one day off really takes a toll. I worked with the council to have events. I planned BBQ’s, dances, sporting events, and holiday parties. I cannot remember having a bad experience and I am hoping that other military members there with me did not either.

Mike & Stephanie Coy

I am passionate about being part of a cause greater than myself. I am passionate about public service and have been very fortunate to see firsthand in the United States Army and Army Reserves the sacrifices that service members and their families have made. I am passionate to be a Sun Devil and an Alumni of Sun Devil Battalion – Feel the Heat!

My wife and I were in the Army Reserves and were fortunate to lead soldiers in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. Stephanie and I were deployed separately, as I was in Tikrit, Iraq from January 2004 to January 2005, and she was in Mosul, Iraq from August 2004 to August 2005. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my time in Iraq and how fortunate I am to have been a part of our armed services.

I have Pat’s ASU jersey and wear it where ever I go. Pat’s sacrifice represents so many selfless Americans that have put the defense of our country above their own well-being.

Michael Isham

I served 1993-1997 in the Marine Corps and watched the amazing season with Tillman, Plummer and Coach Snyder. I got to see the ASU vs. Cal game in person and it was awsome. Rushed the field after the game and got to see ASU get the invite for the Rose Bowl. It was the only game I could go to because of being in the Marines. I couldn't have gone to a better game. One of my greatest ASU memories! Thanks Pat and the '96 Devils!