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Ohio State student-veterans reflect on service, time on campus

Andrew Heinrich used to work as an aircraft mechanic as a Marine. He is now studying finance at Ohio State. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Andrew Heinrich’s schedule is pretty normal for a college student; he wakes up everyday around 7:30 a.m., goes to class, works out, does homework and hangs out with friends. A few years ago, however, his day consisted of waking up at 1:30 a.m., going to work as an aviation mechanic, going to community college, working out, doing homework and going to sleep at midnight. Heinrich got roughly one to two hours of sleep going about this schedule for seven months.

He was a member of the Marine Corps. He is now a student-veteran. He, along with millions of people who served within the Armed Forces, are honored Friday as part of Veteran’s Day.  

During his days as an aviation mechanic stationed in Arizona, he would spend hours at a time working on jets, ensuring they could lift straight off the ground, rather than rely on a gradual take off like a typical airplane.

To do his job, he would be positioned in with his arms above his head, scrunched up in compact spaces for extended amounts of time, sometimes up to four hours — whatever it took to get the job done.

When you sign on, the way it’s taught to a lot of people, is you’re signing a blank check to the government for a price up into including your life. – Andrew Heinrich, a third-year in finance and student-veteran.

The grueling work seems to have had little impact on Heinrich, a third-year in finance.He stands 6-foot-1 with a consistently straight posture. He seems just as tall seated, keeping his limbs sturdy and vertebra straight.

The 26-year-old is one of the 1,800 student-veterans on campus.

Although Heinrich might not necessarily dress differently than the typical student on campus — when interviewed he was wearing a black jacket, jeans and white Pumas — his haircut and backpack hint at his past.

His buzz cut hair is in the typical Marine fashion: short and clean-cut. His backpack is camouflaged and hefty, looking as if it weighs 20 pounds.

You can tell it’s still ingrained into me,” he said, reflecting on his time served. “I miss it a lot but I got out because I was looking for a different opportunity and realized my passion for finance.”

Student-veterans aren’t necessarily hard to spot, said Dan Corrigan, a fourth-year in political science.

Corrigan, a former Marine, has tattooed arms and a stature similar to what you’d imagine a member of the presidential security detail would have. But it’s not the physical look of student-veterans that give them away, Corrigan said. It’s the way they carry themselves.

Dan Corrigan (left) served as a Marine and was a member of the presidential security detail team. He is now studying political science at Ohio State. Credit: Courtesy of Dan Corrigan.

Heinrich had a similar sentiment and explained that many student-veterans stand with a confidence earned rightfully from their experience stationed throughout the United States and throughout the globe. They bring with them pride in knowing that they helped serve the country; that they helped keep citizens’ freedom, he said.

Though different in values, student-veterans strive for what all those who attend university do: a quality education that can ensure a fulfilling career.

Heinrich said he left the Marines to have a bigger world impact. College would allow him to have a better grasp on life if he garnered academic achievement. His experience in the Marines, he said, allowed him to do just that.  

As a Marine, he was molded to a tight-scheduled lifestyle, which is something he said was essential to the academic success he currently has.

“You just get into the mentality of ‘it has to get done’ in the Marine Corps and sometimes even now if I procrastinate an assignment until midnight it’s not hard to stay up until one or two and get up early the next day because I can reflect and know I’ve done it, I’ve been there,” he said.

For Heinrich and Corrigan, along with many other student-veterans, the time they served shaped their outlook on higher education.

“I was a profoundly different person coming into college at age 23 then I was when I left for the Marine Corps when I was 18,” Corrigan said. “I figured out a lot about who I was as a person.”

Corrigan said serving as a Marine gave him a different outlook on college.

“I feel like I appreciate being a student more,” he said. “I feel like I appreciate school more than I would have going through had I gone through at 18.”

The transition from Marine life to college was difficult for both Corrigan and Heinrich because the schedule differed drastically from what they were used to.

“It was definitely different, for sure, trying to get used to [college life],” Corrigan said.  “Everything is on your own. If you don’t feel like going to class then you don’t have to. That was one of the things I didn’t realize coming to school, you have time do your own thing.”

He said every day was different as a Marine. It could consist of physical training one day to learning medical procedures or field operations the next.

As cliche as it might sound, a more-relaxed college schedule after serving in the Marines has helped Heinrich appreciate the small things in life, he said.

“From the end of high school up until the end of my first year [at Ohio State], I was in this go-go-go mentality,” he said. “That’s probably why I’m a lot happier now. I’m able to appreciate a lot more of the little things.”

He said he now has time to experiment with different coffees he likes, and with the advice of a professor, appreciate the changing color of Autumn leaves.

Heinrich visited office hours one day, stressed because of class, and his professor told him to pause for one moment and look outside. He said thinking about that moment helps him de-stress.

“Sitting here, being able to look around and thinking about everyone who has come to this school and what their experiences have been like — it’s the little things.”

He said on this Veteran’s Day, like those of the past, he will appreciate the little things, as well as acknowledge the sacrifices that every veteran makes.

“When you sign on, the way it’s taught to a lot of people, is you’re signing a blank check to the government for a price up into including your life,” he said. “Veteran’s Day is an acknowledgement to everyone that’s willing to do the necessary sacrifices so that the country can still stay free and give everyone the freedoms they have today.”

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