Today, Campbell University announced that it has been named to the coveted Military Friendly Schools list, which honors the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace U.S. military service members, veterans and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus. And on Saturday, the Campbell football program will hold its annual Military Appreciation Day when the Camels host Charleston Southern at 6 p.m. at Barker-Lane Stadium. So it’s only fitting that we spoke with one of the more than 1,000 students enrolled at Campbell who are using veterans benefits.
Below is an edited Q&A with Staff Sgt. Steven Walther, a May 2013 graduate who is currently enrolled in the MBA program through Campbell’s extended campus in the Research Triangle Park. He’s a former Special Forces medic who served in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 and is now in the Army Reserves and the inventor of a different kind of toothbrush, the Toof-inger Brush.
We’ll have more about his invention (and how his military experience influenced it) when we publish a Q&A with him later this fall as part of our Campbell Proud series on the Campbell.edu homepage. For now, as you’ll see in the excerpts from our interview published here, Walther talks about his military experience and how he ended up at Campbell.
Tell me about your military experience.
I joined the military in 2005. I went into an accelerated Special Forces training program. After making my way through the training module, I earned my Green Beret, in 2008. And then I went to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. I have been in direct combat, and I’m an actual war veteran. But there is a lot of humanitarian aid that goes along with that. We want to help the local population. One of the interesting things I got to do while over there was trying to help set up a health care infrastructure. The country is thousands of years behind modern civilization, and we wanted to help them with health care and setting up aid stations and clinics that were manned by Afghans.
What led you to enlist?
I had a patriotic hitch. There was a lot of turmoil at the time. There was a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I wanted to do my part. I was a young, able-bodied adult; and if I was going to jump, I felt like now was the time before I got too old. I also have a military lineage; my father and two uncles were in the military, and my brother is in the military.
So you were a Special Forces medic. Why did you choose to be a medic?
When you go into Special Forces, there are four jobs. You get to pick your priority list, and they try to accommodate you. [Being a medic] was not my top choice; I wanted to be an engineer instead. The Special Forces medic is the most rigorous training program in the military. I did well with the aptitude test, and they said you have to be a medic. And then I fell in love with it.
It was really fulfilling. You’re saving lives; and even if it’s not that serious of a situation, you’re creating a better quality of life for people.
And you’re now in the Reserves?
I left active duty in the middle of 2011. I wanted to transition back into the civil world and work in the health care field. I have a daughter who’ll be 4 soon, and she’s pulling at my heart. And, I feel that I can offer certain skills and things I’ve learned from the military to help our nation here at home.
What are some of those things you’ve learned?
Leadership is one. And then I would love to see our health care system improve in any way possible. You have to be resourceful with all the challenges you have in the military; and to create an infrastructure, you also have to be resourceful.
How did you end up at Campbell?
I did a couple of classes here and there when I was at Fort Bragg. When I transitioned out of active duty, I attended the extended campus at the Research Triangle Park and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration with a minor in management. I’m in the MBA program now.
What drew you to Campbell?
Campbell is extremely military friendly. I did shop around when looking at colleges, and Campbell helped transferring military experience to credit, which is actually very difficult to find. Campbell was wonderful, the transition was easy, and they have an excellent Yellow Ribbon Program. I say thanks to them.
What do you want people to know about being a student veteran?
Something that is important for all to appreciate is that those who joined the military after 9/11 did so knowing they were going to be put in harms’ way, one way or the other. Even if they were not put in a job that involved direct combat experience, it still tells you a lot about that person and his/her strength of character to voluntarily join an effort that is at war. I always express my appreciation to the people who did that. They stepped up and served our nation when our nation was in its greatest need.