Andrew Wasowski '11 of Windham, Maine, was recruited by the Marine Corps in high school. At age 18, he found himself in boot camp, which was followed by three tours in Iraq, where he spent nearly 28 months. He is now a junior nursing student on campus.
What did you do in Iraq?
Intelligence. It was my job to be an expert on the enemy and pass that information on to the Marines of my unit. We'd take information and analyze it. I was on the computer a lot and gave a lot of Power Point briefs. Later, I was on loan to Special Forces.
How did the Marine Corps change you?
I was a completely different person. I was voted most friendly in high school. I was very social, and I was concerned with what people thought of me. Now I'm a little rough around the edges. I'm more direct, and extremely frank. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.
What skills that you learned in the military helped here?
Discipline and initiative... I try to be proactive. I ask a lot of questions in class and go to open labs for help.
What made the deepest impression on you while in Iraq?
Mortality; how fragile we are and how much I value life.
Was your life ever in danger?
Yes. I got my combat action ribbon. The Fallujah offensive was very intense.
What was your biggest challenge in Iraq?
Maintaining hope ... that I would survive it and come home. Every day you wake up and wonder if this is the day you'll die. You try not to succumb to despair. You re-evaluate everything in your life with those situations.
What's it like being back?
Culture shock. I don't have the mindset of the younger students. I value things on a more primal level. Like tonight I can sleep in a bed. I can take a shower, go to the store, check my e-mail. I'm very thankful for these things.
What's your biggest challenge as a nursing student?
Besides being a guy? (laughing) It's such a different way of daily life. Guys don't talk about feelings. Guys don't say, "I'm having a fat day." I've seen some of the world, and I think that I have a different perspective than most students. I felt isolated at first, but I've made friends now and I love being part of the program.
You left the Marine Corps six months early. How did that happen?
I was unhappy toward the end. I knew I wasn't in control of my life. I started to put my education package together and was granted an early release by the Secretary of the Navy for early dismissal because of the Saint Joseph's scholarship. I was the only one out of 900 applicants to be allowed out early in 2007.
What planted the seed to become a nurse?
I met a medic on my last tour. He was doing blitzkrieg medicine, everything from STDs to major field surgery. I offered to help him. He loaned me anatomy books, taught me how to put in IVs on my foot and do sutures on a piece of fruit. From there I realized that I have a love of science and medicine, and I decided I'd get more time with patients in nursing.