Life after service: A Marine Corps veteran talks deployment, serving as an NCO

Donald Lawrence, senior in political science and history, stands in front of the Marine Corps flag. He served in the Marine Corps for 12 years as a non-commissioned ffficer. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Each veteran has a different story of what they experienced, where they went and what they learned while serving in the military. Here is one of them.

Donald Lawrence, senior in political science and history, served in the Marine Corps as a sergeant for 12 years; six in active duty and six in the reserves.

Lawrence began his military career in 1989, where he served under the Reagan administration, the H.W. Bush administration and the first few years of the Clinton administration.

While serving, Lawrence said he had deployments in Desert Storm, Panama and Somalia. He said that during the shifting times there was “just a lot of going here and going there, because we were in that transition period of foreign policy.”

The Marine Corps brought many experiences to Lawrence, and he said it taught him important skills.

“[I learned about] working within a team,” Lawrence said. “Being able to be a leader and a follower at the same time is real important.”

Lawrence served as a non-commissioned officer while in the Marine Corps, and he said the position was a learning curve.

“With being an NCO, you’re in a position where most of the people look up to you,” Lawrence said. “You’ve been there, and then you’re oppositely taking orders from somebody that wants specific tests done, so you’re in that midrange role where you’ve got followers, and you’re also following somebody who’s ahead of you.”

Lawrence said what he learned in the military still stays with him in the civilian world while he is learning at Kansas State.

K-State has many veterans, according to Non-Traditional & Veteran Student Services, 12-14 percent of the student body consists of veterans. Since there is a significant percentage of students who served in the military, the K-State Student Union hosts the Office of Veterans Affairs on the second floor near the top of the stairs.

The office is a place where veterans can go to seek advice about their education and jobs, as well as a place for studying and for recreation. It is also a place for individuals not affiliated with the military to go and have a chat with veterans.

At the Office of Veterans Affairs, there is plenty of information about how veteran students can return to civilian life and pursue the education they desire.

Lawrence had this advice for new and current students using the office: “get as much information prior to actually enrolling. As far as resources, you can let a lot of opportunities slip past if you don’t have the right information.”