Number 43, October 27, 2015
Joey Matheny '16 earned college credit for his experience as a combat medic which applies to his B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies. Not only did that experience as a veteran put him closer to his goal – a career in health care – but it also helped to shape his life.
As a high school student in Shelby Township, Michigan, he planned to go to Michigan State and play football. Then 9/11 happened.
"That was a cause bigger than me," he explained. "I'm from a military family and my immediate reaction was 'Where do I sign up?' When I turned 17, I tried to enlist in the Marines, but they didn't have medics. The Navy had corpsmen, but I wasn't into boats and the water. Finally, a friend told me about a delayed entry program with the Army, which would enable me to learn military skills before going to basic training. I aced the entrance exam and the recruiter told me I had my choice for training. So I checked the box for medic and two weeks after my high school graduation I was on my way to basic at Ft. Benning, Georgia."
From Ft. Benning, he went to Ft. Sam Houston in Texas for five months of medic school. His first duty station was the hospital at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. He trained in emergency room trauma for two years, then spent a few months working in sick-call clinic before receiving new orders sending him to Ft. Riley, Kansas, to serve as the medic for a military training team.
"I thought I'd be leaving for Afghanistan in a couple of weeks, but I got a change of orders which sent me back to Georgia - to Ft. Stewart. I was re-assigned to the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division as medic for the 2-7 Infantry Battalion."
Two months later, shortly after Christmas, he was deployed to Iraq. He was only 20 years old. He was in Iraq for 15 months, during the 2007 troops surge. He was medically retired in 2013, having served in the Army for 9 ½ years, but admitted he'd go back today if he could. "I still want to fight for my country."
Instead, he is serving in another way: as the president of VALOR, the campus organization committed to supporting veterans, active military, and their dependents enrolled at Coastal Georgia. "VALOR is a good place for vets to start when they come to campus. But we're open to all students who care about veterans and want to 'pay back' for their service and sacrifice. Interested students can help us as tutors. Do you realize how much math we forget when we've been away from school for years? They can also help us develop the camaraderie like we had in the service. That sense of belonging and togetherness, of brotherhood and sisterhood, is one of the things we miss most once we return to civilian life."
According to Matheny, about 40 students and veterans are active in the organization. "As a leader, I wouldn't be anywhere without our VALOR leadership team. Shawn Boatright '16, a Marine Corps veteran and VALOR's former president, is a great influence and a big reason I'm serving as president this year." Current officers include Shawn Clark '16, a Navy veteran, serving as vice president on the Brunswick campus and Jason Dominici '17, an Air Force veteran, as vice president for the Camden Center. Lizzy Grant '17, whose father retired from the Navy, is VALOR's secretary. The structure of the organization calls for all officers to be either veterans, in active service, or the dependent of a veteran, Matheny noted.
He cited VALOR advisors as prime examples of people who care. "Dr. Sarah Hartman [Assistant Professor of Education] is the spouse of a soldier currently deployed abroad. J.D. [Officer Johnny Davis, Campus Police] is the son of a veteran. Cheryl Van Dyke [Personal Counselor, Student Affairs] is a military veteran herself. They understand what we are trying to do as an organization."
In the meantime, once he graduates, Matheny plans to enroll in a physician assistant training program, using his B.A. as the necessary credentials for application. "I came to Coastal Georgia because this area is where a lot of military gravitate. It was a good choice for me. I think it's a good choice for any veteran who wants real value for his GI Bill-paid education. The College will work with you to make sure you get what you've earned. And VALOR is here for you."