After serving their country in the U.S. military, a small but significant handful of students are now pursuing their education at California Lutheran University. These veterans-turned-college-students are finding their way in the civilian world while using the skills and values the military instilled in them.
Veteran Matt Younkers served in The U.S. Marine Corps as a radio operator from 2010 to 2014. He was stationed in Japan and Twentynine Palms, California on and off. After four years of being away, Younkers returned to his hometown of Ventura to be closer to his family.
Now, as a business major and a captain of the Kingsmen football team, Younkers said the military taught him that he can pursue anything he sets his mind to.
“It gave me just this feeling that like nothing could stop me…if I really wanted something to be done or accomplished, I had the tools to make it happen and the military and the Marine Corps gave me that mindset,” Younkers said.
As football team captain, Younkers said he wants to use his experiences to help his teammates be successful. He said he sees himself as a mentor for the “younger guys” by using the skills such as leadership and how to motivate people, that the military established in him to make a difference in the lives of others.
“The fact that I was able to make such a strong impact on these young men’s lives was just even more rewarding,” Younkers said.
Head Football Coach, Ben McEnroe said he admires Younkers for his ability to capture the attention of his teammates and apply his military experience to football.
“None of us equate military service to playing football, but when Matt refers to a story or a situation that he faced as a Marine and applies it to football, it is powerful,” McEnroe said in an email interview.
Fernan Diamse, a former Navy Corpsman, was on active duty for 14 years beginning in 2001. Out of high school, Diamse sought out the military for a few different reasons.
“I utilized the military as a stepping stone to see where I wanted to be, eventually,” Diamse said.
During his time in the military, Diamse worked mostly as a Corpsman, a type of medic to the Marines. He was trained in basic medical techniques and procedures along with field medical service and eventually became a surgical technician. He has been all over the world and spent a lot of time in Japan and Southeast Asia.
Diamse, who is pursuing a psychology degree at Cal Lutheran, said that his decision to attend Cal Lutheran was easy. He credits Veterans Coordinator Jenn Zimmerman for making his transition as smooth as possible.
“When I got here, it was as simple as scanning a document and sending it to the VA and it was already approved,” Diamse said. “I’m sure it would’ve been much worse had you not had somebody that understood the processes.”
Fernan said the most beneficial thing he learned from his time in the military is how to communicate with others and he feels that this important life skill will help him in the counseling field after college as well.
“I kind of look at attending Cal Lu as having a second chance at life, in a way,” Diamse said. “This gives me the opportunity to do something else with my life and build a new future for myself.”
Younkers said his time in college is another chapter in his life that he wants to give his all . He credits the U.S. Marine Corps and the experiences he had with giving him his current outlook on life.
“For me, I don’t know when my last day here on Earth will be, so I’m going to take advantage of every single day and just get life experience,” Younkers said.
For both Diamse and Younkers, the military not only gave them the pride of serving their country, but it provided them with the opportunity to continue their education at California Lutheran University and make a difference at the same time.