Student veterans remember service


Roberto Hodge

Zach White, a senior sociology major, explains why he enlisted in the army and what it is like being a student-veteran.

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

When Cody Gallagher was overseas, the big eye-opening moment for him was when bullets were flying at his head. His training would instantly kick in and he would fall back on it.

“No one prepares you for that ‘oh s**t’ moment—they’re actually shooting at me,” Gallagher, a senior geography major is a student veteran.

Gallagher, who enlisted in the United States Army when he was 19, said he did not know exactly what he wanted to do, however, he also was not planning on the army being a career he would enjoy.

Gallagher said he was actually more concerned with roadside bombs than being shot during his tour, but when it happened, the moment felt surreal.

He has been in South Korea for two years and then Fort Stewart, Georgia for two years. Gallagher said one of his years in Georgia was spent at Iraq.

“(Iraq) is not somewhere I’d really pick on the map to go to,” Gallagher said.

While he was in the army, he worked on field artillery, daily missions, personal security and military intelligence.

When he first told his parents of his wishes to join the Army, he said they tried to talk him out of it.

“It’s too late, I gotta go.” Gallagher said. “It set me up with a future and helped me as a person.”

Being in the Army has matured him because those who enlist deal with situations at an early age that most do not, which is why he dislikes the stereotype of veterans coming out of service with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. That is furthest from the truth, Gallagher said.

However, Gallagher said school is a lot easier as an older student, but he thinks because of his age, 26, it could be harder to fit in socially.

Gallagher said Eastern has taken good care of their veteran students. Papers are done quickly with no hassle and he said Illinois has good benefits for veterans.

He said he knew immediately he was going to go to Eastern because of the university’s size and location. Gallagher said because he is a geography major, one of his dreams is to be a foreign affairs officer.

Aside from being in the army, Gallagher said he enjoys playing basketball and being around his fellow friends in Reserved Officers Training Corps.

Zach White, a senior sociology major, is also a student veteran.

White said he enlisted in 2011. He added it would make it easier for his family financially along with it being an interest to him.

He said there are a lot of people in his family who have enlisted in the military; White added his cousin who joined the National Guard never wanted to go to college and changed for the good while in the military.

“It was appreciating to see how structured his life was,” White said.

White said he wants to be an officer in the military police branch once he commissions. He said if this happens, he would be in charge of up to 38 soldiers depending on the unit assigned. 

White said one of his fears is not being able to make his subordinate soldiers the best they can be if he gets commissioned.

“We’re the ones that care, (we’re) supposed to be able to do that,” White said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]