Photo of Jose in the atrium at Kennedy Library

Written by Tyler Deitz on November 7, 2013

Army veteran and Cal Poly student shares his experience this Veterans Day

When we think of veterans, college students may not come to mind. We may think of older men and women who served in the military before we were born. However, veterans are many different ages and from all backgrounds.

Meet José Lemus: mechanical engineer senior and president of Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). He comes from Watsonville, CA and went to Cabrillo College before transferring to Cal Poly. José is also a veteran, and he served his country for four years.

José’s experience in the army

José chose to serve in the army for a number of different reasons. He wanted to travel and to gain valuable experience, to name a few.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to serve your country,” he said.

José left two weeks after his high school graduation to serve and ended up being deployed once to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq. He worked his way up to having 8 soldiers at his command.

Finding community

Being a veteran is not easy, José said. He is constantly reminded of his time in the army and not a day goes by when he doesn’t think about it. Anniversaries and holidays are further reminders of his time serving his country. He still has some friends in the army, and it can be hard to think about them.

“Veterans tend to isolate themselves. It’s hard to bond with people, but when I meet a veteran we click right away,” José said.

José has connected with many other veterans on campus, as well as some members of ROTC.

Respect, loyalty and integrity

José has gained valuable experience from the army that can be applied to all areas of life. Respect, loyalty and integrity are core values that he learned. José also gained crucial leadership and communication skills that help him stand out from other students at career fairs and when looking for jobs and internships.  The army has also helped him stay positive when school gets tough.

“I keep in mind that I’d much rather be doing school than the army,” he said.

José chose to go to Cal Poly because he knows that it is a good school for engineering, and it has has been a goal of his since high school to attend Cal Poly. Once he graduates, José plans to build a career in management.

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