In recognition of Veteran’s Day, we’ve gone to our archives to reflect on some of the amazing OSU people who’ve combined education with military service. We salute our veterans and value their contributions to both the nation and our university community.
When Corporal William Jordan’s Oregon National Guard unit received deployment orders in 2009, he faced a difficult decision. Jordan had just completed his freshman year in Oregon State University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. As an ROTC cadet, he wasn’t contractually obligated to go with his unit to Iraq. But a sense of responsibility to his comrades made the choice less simple.
“Staying probably would have been a better choice for my career, not leaving ROTC and risking not coming back,” Jordan says. Typically, once a cadet leaves the ROTC program it’s very difficult to return. In Jordan’s case, his superiors had to make a strong case for him in order to let him back into the program.
“But wondering how the guys in the unit were doing while I stayed here, that would have been far harder for me than when I was there wondering if I was going to get back into this program when I returned.”
A Risk Worth Taking
Jordan deployed with his unit just one term into his sophomore year.
But rather than sacrificing his education, he returned after 15 months away from Oregon State to continue his studies. This year, Jordan will graduate with a degree in mathematical economics and a commission from the Army ROTC.
While in Iraq, Jordan worked as part of security force on a small base and later served on a Quick Reaction Force at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, where he patrolled the camp perimeter and maintained security. Part of his duties included biweekly patrols outside the camp to make contact with civilians.
“Having contact with people in Iraq taught me a lot about people in general,” Jordan says. “I think you are surprised all at the same time at how much the same and how much different they are. Their culture, the way they speak, the way they think about time, these things are all different but in general they want the same things we do. They want to feed their family and they want to have a job and they want to work.”
A Wider World
Jordan joined the National Guard in 2006, after he graduated high school and found himself without a clear direction in life. Six years later, Jordan says his experiences with the National Guard and in his deployment have changed his perspective for the better.
“My experience at Oregon State was different when I returned from Iraq in that I think I learned to look more long term in my life,” Jordan says. “It changed my priorities as far as what was important to accomplish.”
In particular, Jordan says his interaction with his fellow cadets has changed to reflect the lessons he learned. He aimed to share the long-term perspective he gained with others, and encouraged other students to take responsibility for their own success.
“If you aren’t willing to help yourself and if you aren’t willing to seek out the help you need, you’re not going to be as successful as you could be,” Jordan says. “That’s the message that I wanted to send, that deployment or no deployment, leadership potential is something that you are responsible for cultivating in yourself above all else.”
Jordan applied that lesson to his own life when he returned to Oregon State, becoming active in ASOSU as a senator, where he says he learned that it is possible for anyone to make a difference if they’re willing to make an effort. He also received the George C. Marshall Award this year, which honors the top cadet in Oregon State’s Army ROTC. Jordan is one of 322 cadets to win the award among more than 5,000 ROTC cadets nationwide.
What the Future Holds
Jordan will attend engineer officer training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri beginning in September, and then plans to work as an active engineering officer in the military. Moving forward, he says he’ll to continue to pursue leadership in the army and in his life.
“I’ll always remember to be involved wherever I think I can make a difference, whether that’s in my leadership responsibilities in the military or in an opportunity outside of the military,” Jordan says. “If I see something that needs to be done or that I want to do, and it even looks remotely possible, I want to go for it because you’ll almost always be better off for it.”
-Story by Kayla Harr