Nathan Parker, a SUNY New Paltz student, is a retired ten-year United States Marine and Iraq war veteran. After he was injured in Iraq, he was honorably discharged. Parker then decided to enroll in college in hopes of pursuing career in public relations and psychology, and is set to graduate with the class of 2016.
You are a retired United States Marine and war veteran. Why did you decide to join the military?
Really and truly, out of high school I had gotten a couple of scholarships, but I did not know what I wanted to do. So, instead of taking a lot of time, spending a lot of money and trying to find myself in college, I decided to go out and get some world experience. Once I joined the military, I was really good at it. I felt like I was where I needed to be.
Do you remember what it was like arriving in Iraq?
Iraq was hot. One of the first things I remember pretty distinctly was the change in climate. We noticed that, because it is so dry and because there is no humidity, you would go out and your sweat would not have time to become wet. You would bypass the phase of waiting for your sweat to dry. Your skin would instantly become dry and salty.
You were promoted to Infantry Squad Leader after a few years of being active in the military. What were your responsibilities in that position?
As far as responsibilities go, I would be in charge of myself along with twelve other people in our thirteen-man squad. You would be responsible for all their equipment, and their survival. The Squad Leader is responsible for a lot more now than they ever were previously because they are executing daily patrols, directing combat operations, humanitarian operations and civilian aid.
Do you believe that your military experience has influenced what you have chosen to study at New Paltz?
Yes. I am trying to figure out what I am doing. It is like growing up all over again. I had to accept that I could not fight anymore. I am an advocate for veterans and working to help them get the assistance they need for anxiety and PTSD, which is why I am studying psychology. I have come to the realization that there is an enormous disconnect people do not understand. We do not need more psychologists; we need more people who understand the problem that war veterans face after returning home.
You coordinated a leadership and mentor program for New Paltz student athletes. Why?
I worked with Jason Gilliland to put together the program when I transferred here. We worked hard over the summer to put the program together once the athletic director reached out to us, asking us to coordinate it. The program was military style that was supposed to help give students the tools needed to become leaders. Good leaders are good followers that have a willingness to take responsibility for what they do and what they do not do
Do you have any quotes or sayings you live by?
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. This is attributed to many places in my life. Without coordination and effective communication, you will not get anywhere. Over the years, I have learned what to do and what not to do. It is not about where you want to be, but about where you need to be.
Resources at SUNY New Paltz for Veterans:
Click the graphic below to visit the college’s Department of Veteran & Military Services website: