Soldier gets back in the habit

During the summer of 2004, Cederrick Ashley was preparing for summer school when he received a call informing him that he would be deployed to Djibouti, Africa in one week.

That is when Ashley, a student at Florida A&M University, traded in his books for weapons. He was shipped to Djibouti to patrol the border and the city. His mission was to keep the Taliban from flooding into Africa.  Ashley said most of the people there were happy to see African-American soldiers.

After serving nine months in Djibouti, Ashley returned to the United States and school. He was given two weeks to adjust and said his biggest setback was catching up in his classes

“I forgot everything I had been taught,” Ashley said. “I was completely lost in my business classes so I changed my major to Public Relations.”

Lt. Col. Jeffrey N. Williams, professor of Military Science at FAMU, said the Veteran Health Administration and readjustment counselors  are available to help students who go to war to get accustomed to college life again.

“We offer classes and counselors to assist our students,” Williams said.

According to the registrar, FAMU veteran affairs staff will travel to the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Conference at the end of the month to learn how to further help students.

Similar to Ashley, Sgt. Damon Lucas was pulled out of school in the middle of November 2006 for deployment. He immediately withdrew from school to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams of being a soldier.  Lucas served one year in Iraq and Afghanistan. His assignment was to watch the detainees in the detention center.

“It was a very interesting and enlightening experience,” he said. “I would not change it for the world.”

In Iraq, Lucas was constantly under attack. He said mortar bombs were exploding all day and all night.

“One morning as I was walking to the cafeteria for breakfast when a mortar bomb flew across my head and hit the cafeteria building,” he added.

While serving the country, Lucas said he read more than 80 books. He believes reading and having a great support system ultimately helped him adjust to normal life.  

“When I was gone I saw how important school was,” Lucas said. “Being a solider has helped me become a better student, and being a student has help me become a better soldier.”

Last month, President Barack Obama announced he would send 17,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan to assist against the escalating violence in the region.  Many of  these troops are students who are currently enrolled in universities and trade schools across the nation.

If given the opportunity,  Lucas said he would gladly serve our country again. However, Ashley enjoys life as a student and said he would never want to go back to war. His military contract ends in May.