At the age of 23, Tyler Stockton (Government, ’13) arrived at PHC, having served four years as an active duty Marine infantry machine gunner and completing combat tours in Iraq. After two tours of duty, Stockton concedes he wasn’t the typical freshman.
“I was used to having a unit where most of the people ranked below me,” he added, “and I came here as a freshman at the bottom of the totem pole. I was older than most of the seniors, but they knew more than I did about the school, and it was a humbling experience.”
His fellow students didn’t understand what he had been through, nor did he want them to. “I served so my mom, my sister, and my wife wouldn’t have to experience what I’ve experienced,” he said. “My scars are my own, and I don’t want them to know.”
While some PHC students and alumni have pursued active duty, others have chosen to serve part-time in the Army Reserves or the National Guard.
Junior history major Caleb Bo hon has worked in communications with the Army Reserves since 2007. He came to PHC in 2008 and has since been deployed twice once in 2009-10, and once in 2012-13. While his deployments have slowed down his degree track, they have allowed him to save money to pay for college.
“When I’m here I try to focus on my studies, but when I’m deployed I can’t really take classes,” Bo hon said. “Because I’m a history major, I have to take Latin or Greek, and the main thing I have tried to do while deployed is working on keeping my language skills.” Colin Cutler (Literature, ’10) served because both his parents and his brother are in the military, yet during his junior year, he decided he wanted to go to graduate school and eventually become a college professor. Rather than pursuing active duty, Cutler in 2011 joined the Virginia National Guard and currently serves as an Infantry Platoon Leader, working approximately one weekend each month and attending two weeks of summer training. He is also working full-time as an executive assistant to PHC President Graham Walker and Provost Gene Edward Veith. In March, Cutler traveled to Germany for a month to assist with the final stages of training for a unit being deployed to Afghanistan.
“The military was my first immersion in life on my own,” Cutler said, noting that his service was a proving ground for his Patrick Henry College education. In the military, he learned, “It’s not about you; it’s about your buddy. If you take care of your buddy, everything’s going to be ok. And that’s love, really.” Stockton, Cutler, and Bohon are among many PHC students and graduates who have and continue to serve in the U.S. military. Each agreed that the military provides a dynamic opportunity for Christians to share Christ through their actions.
In a recent PHC Alumni Association update, a number of PHC alumni provided updates about their military service. Ryan Akers (Government, ‘08) reported that he served as an Infantry Officer on active duty in the USMC from May 2008 to February 2011. Stationed in 29 Palms, CA, he deployed to Afghanistan and to The Republic of Georgia. He is currently a Company Commander in the USMC Reserves, based in Michigan.
Gabe Evans (Government, ‘09), a First Lieutenant with the 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), Colorado Army National Guard, has served in the Army for six years and flies UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. From June 2012 to July 2013, he was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Kuwait, providing MEDEVAC coverage and aerial transportation for supplies, troops, and VIPs, in nine different countries in the Middle East.
Brian Wright (Government, ‘06), a national champion legal debater during his time at PHC, and his wife April Wright (nee Quarto, Literature, ‘07) are currently stationed in San Diego, CA, where Brian serves as a Marine judge advocate. A law school graduate, he is currently a lead court-martial prosecutor focusing on high-profile cases.
The opportunity to serve in the military as a Christian, notes Stockton, provides unique opportunities to witness one’s faith. He advises students considering the military to zealously pursue that calling. “If someone has the desire to serve their country, by all means, go. The key is, do you love the Lord? Do that, and live your life.”