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Chris Vasquez

Chris Vasquez

Chris Vasquez, Naval Corpsman

There were moments at Columbus State when Chris Vasquez was ready to quit. Vasquez, 25, came to the college in 2014 after five years as a Navy corpsman, a medical specialist for the US Marine Corps.

His experiences have taken him to tsunami-torn Japan, where he was part of a Marine expedition unit, and Afghanistan, where he trained Afghan medics to tend to as many as 70 casualties.

Last year, he sat in a classroom surrounded by students untouched by the hopelessness of a natural disaster or the violence of a military conflict, wondering where he fit in the Columbus State landscape.

“Without the support, I wouldn’t have stayed here.”

Then, someone noticed his military backpack.

“Hey, are you a corpsman?”

Turns out Vasquez wasn’t the only veteran student in the room. The two launched into a conversation about their experiences — a connection that helped put Vasquez at ease.

Columbus State’s Military & Veterans Services office did the rest. A specialist from the office helped him through the enrollment process. The veteran’s lounge gave him a way to connect with other students.

“It removed that sense of isolation,” he said.

Now Vasquez is less than a year away from earning his associate of arts degree and plans to transfer to Ohio State to study air transportation so he can earn his pilot’s license.

“The veterans connect very easily with each other and we can help guide each other. Without the support, I wouldn’t have stayed here,” Vasquez said.